Bellevue Council approves effort to bring a new aquatic center to the city

City will use $250,000 of contingency funds to assess how to proceed.

The possibility of new aquatic center in Bellevue is back in the spotlight after the City Council approved staff to move forward with planning to bring an updated swimming facility to the area.

On March 12, the Bellevue City Council voted unanimously in support of a motion to allow the city to utilize up to $250,000 of Capital Improvement Plan contingency funds to develop more precise information to needed to determine how they should proceed with an aquatic center.

At the meeting, Parks and Community Services Director Patrick Foran gave a presentation on the history behind the project and what the current plans are to provide the citizens with swimming facilities. In 2009, he said, the city performed their initial feasibility study regarding an aquatic center. Foran said the study explored facility and financing options, estimated financial performance, analyzed aquatic center market at the time, and conducted public outreach through meetings, focus groups, and surveys.

The city identified the public’s desire for swimming facilities in the community but due to the effects of the recession, the city’s partners were not prepared to pursue the project at the time.

The 2009 study “remains the platform by which we are continuing to do this work and will serve us well as we move into updating the results of that work and moving into the future,” Foran said.

In 2017 King County began working on a regional approach to an aquatic center with Bellevue, Redmond and Kirkland. King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci has also secured an appropriation of $2 million to develop a solution, Foran said. Bellevue City Council directed staff at that time to work with the King County process as well as working on Bellevue’s own city approach.

Now the staff has been directed to update their 2009 study and determine how they would be able to work with King County for a regional approach as well as look at the city’s own plan.

The demand for more accessible and fully featured swimming facilities has been coming from every demographic, Foran said. Young families, adult fitness, senior exercise, physical therapy and competitive swim and dive are all uses that are in high demand in the area and need a facility that can meet their needs.

The Bellevue School District does not have their own pool and competes at facilities outside of the city during the competitive season. Due to a lack of aquatic centers around the region, the Bellevue School District swimmers practice at either the Bellevue Aquatic Center, which is too shallow, or the Edgebrook Swim Club, which is an outdoor pool.

Foran also discussed the need for a more modern facility as well. The Bellevue Aquatic Center was built in 1970 and is the only public pool serving a population of 140,000 he said.

In preliminary research, city staff has examined other aquatic centers in communities like Sammamish, Lynwood, Seattle and Snohomish to see what kind of services and options they offer the community. They used that research to create a conceptual checklist of features they believe would meet the needs of the community. The conceptual layout lists a 6,000 square foot leisure and recreation pool, an eight lane by 25 yard instruction and fitness pool, a 10 lane, 50 meter competitive pool and seating for 1,200, a wellness and rehabilitation warm water therapy pool and indoor support space for dry activities.

However, the regional approach would assume developing multiple facilities placed and operated in ways that would be complimentary, Foran said. One of the alternate regional ideas is the formation of a metro parks taxing district between the various cities to centralize funding and operations of the facilities.

In focusing on Bellevue’s single facility approach, Foran said the city would need four to seven acres for a new facility. Other aspects like location, traffic impact, site cost, ownership and partnership potential are critical areas that will be examined as part of the upcoming study effort.

Mayor John Chelminiak questioned how partnerships will cover costs and asked if the new study will break costs up by element. Foran said it would and that the individual costs of each element would be important in determine who pays for what portion.

Bellevue’s next steps will have city staff exploring partnerships, updating the elements of the 2009 study to a modern standard, analyze of possible funding sources and structures and working with the county to explore regional options.

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