North Platte Wellness Alliance Presents Recommendations for Local Rec Center

Tuesday evening, members of the North Platte Area Wellness and Recreation Alliance announced to City Council their recommendations for the future of the North Platte Recreation Center. The vision includes an updated and expanded facility, including a leisure swimming pool with play features and zero entry as well as a competition swimming pool, expanded fitness spaces, indoor walking/running track and additional gyms. A YMCA management agreement is also a part of that vision. According to a press release from the North Platte Area Wellness and Recreation Alliance, at the request of the City, the recreation alliance has been working on Recreation Center improvements for several years with the most recent progress report presented to Council in April 2019. At that time, the Council requested that the Alliance bring back a recommendation addressing three areas:

  1. What to build?
  2. Who should manage the facility?
  3. How to fund the build?

“We are excited to share our vision with the community, said Leland Poppe, co-chair of the Alliance. The timing feels right with the exciting progress that North Platte is experiencing with downtown development, the community-build park, the mall project, housing initiatives and other major developments,” said Poppe. “This is about listening to North Platte residents, recognizing their need and remaining committed to the wellbeing of families in our community. “We want to provide our growing community with safe, modern spaces to exercise, socialize in and be proud of. Why not North Platte and why not now?” The existing North Platte Recreation Center was built in 1976 and has served as a community hub for physical fitness as well as for social opportunities for a wide variety of ages and backgrounds. The nearly 50-year-old recreation center has had regular maintenance to keep the facility operational; however, the building has not undergone any significant improvements during the past 46 years. The infrastructure is aging and requires more and more maintenance expenditures, with necessary infrastructure replacement looming in the near future. “We are appreciative of all the recreation center offers,” said Poppe. “It’s a cornerstone to the health of this community – and it has been for years. Right now, it’s a good facility, but you can’t deny its age. We are excited to see this facility grow with our community and expand its potential. The possibilities for our youth, area student-athletes and families are endless.”

The Alliance recommendation includes renovating and expanding the existing Recreation Center with a footprint exceeding 140,000 square foot. The approximately $45 million project includes adding a second story to the existing building making room for new features, such as additional gym space for basketball and volleyball tournament play as well as pickleball and tennis courts. The additional space would also include an indoor walking/running track and expanded cardio and weight rooms. Two swimming areas are also part of the recommendation. “Our current swimming pool does not meet the regulations for swimming competitions and we want to remedy that while also allowing swimming options for younger children and water walkers,” said Poppe. “By having two bodies of water in close proximity, it maximizes the space, the use of life guards and also promotes diverse use of the pools.” The Scottsbluff YMCA has expressed an interest in managing the Recreation Center and early discussions are taking place to determine a plan that meets the community vision. Conrad Bostron, CEO of the Scottsbluff YMCA says, “We have a wealth of knowledge and expertise that we can bring to North Platte to customize a management arrangement specific to this market and its community needs. We believe in a Y for all and that remains true no matter the community we are in.” “A managing agreement with a neighboring YMCA is not a reflection of the current staff of the Recreation Center,” said Poppe. “We commend the staff for their dedication to wellness in our community and applaud them for continuing to find ways to modify the existing building to create spaces to meet the needs for their members. This is about identifying a more sustainable model for the City.”

Additional projects included in the Recreation Center project include a new location for the skate park and a proposal for Cody Pool. “With the expansion of the Recreation Center, we will need the space currently occupied by the skate park,” said Megan McGown, co-chair of the Recreation Alliance. “We are proposing to include both of these projects in our fundraising goal.” The skate park committee has already raised significant funds to relocate and enhance the skate park and has been researching potential locations. At nearly 100 years old, Cody Pool has outlasted its expected lifespan. The Alliance recommends including in the total project costs up to $7 million for pool upgrades, including the pool house. The final recommendation of the Alliance is to create a maintenance reserve fund to ensure there is a fund to maintain the facilities. “Historically, when something major has gone wrong with the Recreation Center, such as the dehumidification system, it creates a budget crisis for the City,” said McGown. “We want to avoid that by setting aside funds specific for these types of maintenance concerns.” The total cost of the project, including the Recreation Center renovation and expansion, skate park relocation and enhancement and Cody Pool revitalization is approximately $55 million plus an additional $10 million fundraising goal for the maintenance reserve fund.

The Alliance plans to bring forward to the City Council a proposal for a half-cent sales tax ballot initiative to fund the majority of the project. “Our recommendation is to allow a public vote for a half cent city sales tax to fund the capital expenditures of this project,” said McGown. “A sales tax allows us to capture dollars from visitors, those passing through and those commuting daily to our community – those that are using our services and not otherwise paying for them. It is something we all pay when we travel to other communities and make retail purchases, so why not North Platte?” Based on 2021 revenues, a half-cent sales tax would generate approximately $3.2 million annually and is trending upwards. As the city continues to grow with the new employers and retailers coming to the community, the sales tax should continue to rise. The proposed additional half-cent sales tax would sunset when the bond is paid off. The Recreation Alliance will also fund raise and apply for grant funds to supplement the sales tax request. “We know that a new tax is not always popular, and we are not asking the council to approve the tax increase,” said McGown. “We are asking the Council to allow the voters to decide.” “While campaigning for Mayor, approximately 70% of the constituents I spoke with discussed the need for improving the Recreation Center,” said North Platte Mayor Brandon Kelliher. “I believe the Recreation Alliance proposal is an excellent option for North Platte. Providing an opportunity for the voters to decide the future of the recreation complex is a great direction.”

The proposed timeline includes a Council work session in June and Council vote in July to allow the sales tax initiative on the November ballot.

Additional information about the Tuesday evening North Platte City Council meeting and the presentation from the North Platte Area Wellness and Recreation Alliance can be viewed with the link provided below from our colleagues at the North Platte Bulletin: