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For the kids: Moses Lake moves forward with new recreation center funding plan

by SAM FLETCHER
Staff Writer | March 16, 2021 1:00 AM

The Moses Lake City Council approved, with two 7-0 votes, the funding plan and contractors for the Larson Recreation Center, moving forward with the new facility in the 600 block of Yakima Avenue.

According to The Driftmier Architects PS, the new 30,000-square foot facility, which enhances the batting cages and ice rink currently on the property, will provide large spaces for sports, camps and classes, meeting the community goals set by the city Parks and Recreation Department. The facility will also have a large locker room and skate rental shop. The grand opening is planned for early 2022.

The facility will be paid for through the state Treasurer’s Local Option Capital Asset Lending program. The city will borrow $11.4 million and pay $750,000 annually for 20 years with an interest rate of 2.47%.

While the council appeared in agreement March 9, not everyone in attendance at the council meeting shared the sentiment. Chris Molitor, of the South Campus Athletic Club, had concerns, starting with the method of repayment.

“I’ve never seen a year like this, where there’s just nothing booked for the summer,” he said. “I know we’re all in a great period of uncertainty, but with no Gorge concerts, sporting events, business conferences, DOT conferences, I am very uncertain on how much lodging tax is going to be available. I think I’m the largest funder for that in our community.”

According to the council agenda, even with the reduction of a few revenue sources, such as lodging taxes, the general fund is still on track to break even through the CARES Act Grant, keeping the city from dipping into reserve funds.

In 2020, the city received $72,000 less in hotel and motel taxes, a 24% decrease from a standard year, said city manager Allison Williams. Despite what the agenda says, this could result in using a portion of the $190,000 reserve fund.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While a new recreation center is an important service to offer to youth in the community, it’s an unfair competitor to local businesses, especially in such a rough economic year, Molitor said.

It would be beneficial for the city to have input on the use of the facility, Williams said.

“I think it’s vitally important that we don’t bruise further an industry that has suffered so terribly this last year,” she said.

The city will manage the recreation center, but it will not compete with existing businesses, said Mayor David Curnel, because the vast majority of customers at those businesses are older than the age of 18, whereas the majority of patrons of the new recreation facility will be younger.

The demographic breakdown won’t be black and white, said council member Dean Hankins.

“I think there will be a little bit of overlap. I think it may hurt that business slightly,” he said. “But I think it’s worth it to have this for the youth in this community.”

The new facility is in line with the comprehensive plan of what the city needs based on surveys, said Charlene Rios of the Parks and Recreation commission board.

With this, former Parks and Recreation Director Spencer Grigg stepped in.

“You’re making history tonight whatever way you vote,” he said. “I hope you’ll all take it to heart and do it for the kids, because that’s what this facility is all about. Park and recreation departments across the nation, even across the world, strive for social equity, and this is the kind of facility that accomplishes that so the members of the community no matter what income level, no matter what race, no matter what creed, they have a gathering place that makes a community, and this facility will do just that for Moses Lake.”

One in three children in this nation is obese, Grigg added. Further, the new facility could bring business from out of town and even benefit the potential competitors.

In the vote, the council agreed. The new facility will be built by Leone & Keeble Inc. of Spokane, as they came in with the lowest bid of $8.9 million, just shy of the architect’s estimate of $10 million.

“You are all putting deep thought into this, but that deep thought needs to bring the kids to the top of the pile,” Grigg said. “Take care of the kids in the community, please.”

(This article has been updated with corrected information: The city plans to manage the new recreation center.)

photo

Courtesy Driftmier Architects

The new 30,000 square foot facility will be built by Leone and Keeble of Spokane and is set to open in early 2022.

photo

Courtesy Driftmier Architects

The new Larson Recreation Center will provide large spaces for sports, camps and classes.