Tuesday, April 13, 2004

West Chester delays recreation center vote

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

WEST CHESTER TWP. - Needing more information, trustees Monday delayed a decision until at least May on building a $25-million community and recreation center in Union Centre.

Trustees, scheduled to vote on building the 151,000-square-foot center in two weeks, said they need to review operating costs, membership base and dimensions of a competitive swimming pool.

"The question is whether the community will support it. And if they aren't ... we're not going to build it," said Catherine Stoker, trustees president.

Trustees said they would build the two-story center on West Chester Road, opposite Lakota West High School, with tax increment financing funds from Union Centre development - if they can be convinced the operation would be financially self-sufficient.

Plans prepared by four companies working on the center call for separate indoor and outdoor family aquatic centers, indoor track, gymnasium, racquetball courts, workout and meeting rooms and a large indoor multipurpose turf field.

An eight-lane competitive pool, with seating for 400, was added last month on condition that area swim teams provide $100,000 in annual pool rental.

However, local swim parents calling themselves the Competitive Pool Action Committee said a pool could generate more than $100,000 - if the township builds a 10-lane pool with 1,000 seats for regional meets.

"We want the community to know that we're committed to (pool) operating costs - not just for three or four years, but until the building falls down," said Mike Austin, president of the committee.

How much a 10-lane pool would add to costs remains unknown. Chris Chivetta of Hastings & Chivetta Architects of St. Louis, the principal designer, said Monday he didn't have that information yet.

At a special meeting Monday, the consultants presented an inch-thick binder to answer questions trustees had on the consultants' proposed operating budget delivered last month. They project the center would be profitable in its second year (2006), with a residential family rate ranging from $625 to $940 annually.

Trustee George Lang on Monday introduced the possibility of a referendum on building the center, which would delay construction until next year. Lang and Trustee Jose Alvarez said they could vote against construction - despite already hiring four consultants - if the operation would be a burden to taxpayers.


E-mail jkiesewetter@enquirer.com

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