|The Woodlands Swim Team (TWST) and The Woodlands Masters Swim Team (WMST), are both 501 C 3 entities, have supported the sport of swimming in the community since the 1970’s. When The Woodlands Athletic Club (WAC) closed in 2009 these groups (and others) moved to the Conroe Independent School District Natatorium which has been their primary facility since that time. Over the course of the past several years TWST and WMST have continued to expand due to growth in the community; however, it has been a challenge to obtain lap lane time at the Natatorium due to the growth of the community and regional, zone, national and international meets.
Seeing that there were challenges in obtaining lap lane time at the Natatorium and having worked with The Woodlands Township on heating community pools (Forestgate, Creekwood and Sawmill) to add additional capacity to the system, a proposal was submitted by TWST and WMST to install a 50 meter pool at Bear Branch Park. The Board reviewed this concept and proposal at their February meeting and directed staff to review operational and capital costs of this pool in relationship to Bear Branch Park Master Plan. Barker Rinker Seacat, (BRS) a firm familiar with The Woodlands and the Bear Branch Park site was retained to conduct the review of the feasibility of the site, the TWST/Masters concept plan and costs, parking, traffic flow, infrastructure, etc. The information from BRS was presented to the Board at their March meeting, and the Board requested additional review of the capital and operational cost from BRS. This review has been performed by BRS and their report is included as Attachment A.
The major findings of BRS and their sub consultants (Ballard and Associates and Peak Program Value) are:
• We still believe The Woodlands Olympic Pool at Bear Branch Park can be a great project; however, with the current proposed TWST/ WMST scope of work, The Township needs to be reasonably certain the project can be funded at $8,875,353 plus escalation (an understatement of $3,564,100 in the TWST/WMST) proposal) before it is considered for initiation;
• The proposed transaction may have significant community benefits and there may be a myriad of reasons why this transaction makes sense, but it does not appear to PPV that any of these are financially oriented;
• It is the opinion of Ballard*King & Associates that the projected operational expenses are most likely low. Revenues could be high based on the rate of actual use by the two swim teams. As a result it is difficult to project with any certainty that the center can in fact recover 50% of its true cost of operation with revenue generated by the facility itself;
As the cost estimates were much higher than proposed, staff and members of TWST/WMST met with BRS and their sub-consultants to review the costs. The numbers BRS provided contain "safety measure" pricing due to the lack of information related to the site including- geotechnical, utility locations, underground conditions, surveying, topography, etc. They indicate there are too many unknowns at this time in order to provide a more accurate estimate of construction cost. Staff reviewed the concept of spending additional dollars for soil surveys, utility analysis and other items. However, by having this additional information , it would not drive the cost back to the original cost presented by the Clubs.
Overall, the BRS Report presents a turnkey capital cost for the proposed facility and as such the project would meet the various needs identified in the 2011 Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment for competitive aquatic facilities. The direction staff was provided was to review the capital costs as this was the highest decision-making point at the time. Further analysis of operational cost and the public/private partnership would need to be addressed in a business and operational plan.
Subsequent to the TWST/WMST proposal, the Magnolia Masters (MM) advised staff of similar facility needs for high level swim training and coaching. "Magnolia Masters is geared toward athletes seeking quality swim coaching that want to improve their open water and swim efficiency. We coach everyone from pro level triathletes to ex-college swimmers looking to compete in masters swim meets, first time triathletes trying to get through their first race or those looking to improve their health and fitness." MM business model is entrepreneurial in nature, seeking a return on investment through high level coaching and training services provided through a minimal facility. MM is open and willing to join in the discussion of joint public/private arrangements.
As TWST/TMST has a deadline of June 30 to exercise their purchase option, they desire a response to their proposal.
The Board may want to consider:
- Approve to move forward with a Term Sheet that outlines a funding and operation agreement between the Township and TWST/WMST with a not to exceed amount of funding from the Township. Such agreement could be presented to the Board in June for consideration and would be include conditions for TWST/WMST financial guarantees to the project;
- Consider the proposal and/or other options for the development or re-development of Bear Branch Park, during the 2016 Budget process, perhaps not limited to just aquatics facilities, and advise TWST/WMST that the Township cannot accept their proposal or commit to a project at this time;
- Reject the TWST/WMST proposal.