Round Rock city and school officials are contemplating the best way to fund and build a multimillion-dollar swim facility, a project in the works for more than a year that has gained the attention of the local swim community.
A feasibility study and presentation by aquatics consultant Counsilman-Hunsaker has been completed, and now school and city officials are contemplating the next steps.
The feasibility study on the natatorium, or large-scale indoor swim center, is a collaborative project funded by Round Rock ISD; the city of Round Rock; CHASCO Family YMCA; and the Avery family, which would donate land in north Round Rock across from the Texas A&M Health Science Center for the facility. The parties jointly funded the study to determine the building’s financial requirements in addition to the elements necessary to meet the needs of a growing area swim community.
“The study clearly said there is a need,” Round Rock Mayor Pro Tem Craig Morgan said. “What we have to do is determine where that sweet spot is [for facility size and who will pay for what percentage of it].”
Why there is a need
For years, RRISD high schools and private swim clubs have used six public and neighborhood pools to hold practices and meets, including an indoor facility at the YMCA.
Schools and private teams have said the existing pools do not accommodate their numbers, and the limited space has restricted the number of swimmers who can participate.
Students have consequently been turned away from high school swim programs because of the limited slots available, said David Hansen, president of the Round Rock Dolphins, a summer league swimming organization.
Two public pools run by the city where high school and private swim teams practice are Lake Creek and Micki Krebsbach. The school swim teams and club teams pay to use the lanes to practice and compete. The district spends about $80,000 per year renting the facilities, said Corey Ryan, RRISD executive director of communications and community relations. An eight lane pool cannot accommodate a team larger than 40 swimmers, Ryan said.
Picking a plan
George Deines, project manager for Counsilman-Hunsaker, presented the findings from the yearlong study, which revealed two options—one priced at about $24 million and another priced at about $31 million—that could meet the city and school district’s needs.
The proposed $31 million facility would consist of an Olympic-sized pool with platforms and springboards, a separate warmup and warm-down area, and seating for up to 1,500 spectators. The study found the annual operating subsidy needed to run such a facility is $750,000.
The $31 million facility would be comparable to pools at Texas A&M University and The University of Texas, which hosts state meets, Deines said.
“This facility would compete with any facility across the state, and it could garner national attention,” he said.
A smaller plan was also proposed, which would cost $24 million. This plan would eliminate the dive pool and call for approximately 600-800 spectator seats.
The presentation showed the operational subsidy would be $500,000 a year.
Deines said such a facility would help fulfill the school district’s needs, he said, but attract fewer competitions.
Families who travel to area meets spend about $1,000 per family per meet through meals, hotel stays and other accommodations, according to Deines.
The economic impact from the $31 million facility could be as high as $3.5 million in direct spending annually, Deines said. He said the facility could bring in an additional $1.5 million every three to five years if the facility attracts national-level events.
Morgan said that the dollars generated from patrons of the natatorium could help the city’s property tax base.
“[A swim facility] adds to the [city’s] ‘Sports Capital’ brand, No. 1, and there is no natatorium [in the area] other than The University of Texas that can host the bigger events,” he said. “For the city it brings in more sales tax; [and] it brings in more hotel/motel taxes.”
Charles Logan, director of the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swimming Center at the University of Texas, said demand for the UT facility and restrictions that prohibit it from hosting summer league events means UT cannot accommodate the number of swim events in the area.
“Another natatorium would be fantastic,” he said.
Ryan said the school district plans to form its citizens bond committee in October. He said that group would work through February to assess and prioritize the district’s needs, and the board of trustees will determine which projects should go before voters in May. Depending on the trustees’ recommendation, the school district could include several projects tied to its strategic plan in the bond package, including an early childhood education center for prekindergarten students as well as a sixth high school.
Once the school district’s board of trustees and the city determine the total amount needed for the facility, then the city and district can collaborate and determine what percentage of the project will be funded by the city, Morgan said.
Morgan said after the project partners agree to percentages, then the next step will be for the school district bond to go before voters for approval.
The board of trustees would have to call for an election no later than Feb. 17 for the natatorium to go on the May ballot, Ryan said.