A steering group is envisioning a combined community and aquatic center that could include two pools, a fitness area, a full-size gym, a commercial kitchen, child care area, flex space, classrooms for the Boys and Girls Club and offices for pool staff and the Anacortes Parks and Recreation Department.

A first draft “wish list” was presented last week with features that could be included in a combined center run by both the City of Anacortes and the Fidalgo Pool and Recreation District.

The pool district has been actively working toward a replacement facility, and the city has made clear its goal to pursue a community center. The two governing bodies are considering the possibility of combining their goals into one.

City staff, including Mayor Laurie Gere and City Council members, met with Fidalgo Pool commissioners Thursday, Feb. 6, to discuss moving forward on pursuing a shared center at the current Fidalgo Pool and Fitness Center site.

Pool district Commissioner Jeremy McNett went over a list he drafted of rooms and spaces both parties identified as wanting the facility to have, which included estimated square footage for each area.

The draft calls for a 73,500-square-foot facility on two levels. About a quarter of that space would be dedicated to the aquatic center, with two pools, but the Fidalgo Pool and Fitness Center would also be responsible for some of the nonaquatic spaces.

Assuming the price per square foot is around $500, as it was for the recently built Mount Vernon YMCA, the price for this early draft would be roughly $36.8 million, according to McNett. That number could grow due to the higher price of building aquatic spaces, according to the pool facility’s campaign coordinator Jennifer Pitner, who mentioned the topic at the pool commissioners’ meeting later that day. Pitner previously worked as campaign coordinator for the Skagit Valley Family YMCA, which opened in April 2019.

While the steering group meets regularly, discussions are still in early stages with no official agreement yet in place. That could change in coming weeks with the signing of a memorandum of agreement by both entities.

Gere described the draft as a wish list at the City Council meeting on Monday.

“We had a wish list and attached to that wish list was square footage,” Gere said. “Now that is going to an architectural firm to give us a firm square footage cost. Then we’ll have to take our wish list and make it real.”

The hope now is to have a cost estimate by March.

Gere pointed out that once a budget is decided, the site plan will likely be redone to accommodate.

“We got to dream a little at the last meeting,” Gere said Monday.

Two of the largest possible areas in the draft facility plan include a regulation-size gym at 10,500 square feet, and a space for a dance school to rent at 7,000 square feet. Renting space to a dance school is just an option and has not been confirmed, McNett said.

The pool board upped the size of its proposed lap pool in this draft, increasing from eight lanes to 10 to accommodate a wider spread of programming and anticipate future population growth. The draft also includes a 4,000-square-foot warm water recreational pool, much like the pool’s original plans for a new facility.

The new facility would have room for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to have office space within a hub of recreation instead of at City Hall. It would also provide classroom space and use of the gym for the Boys and Girls Club, which now operates in the City Hall basement.

“These square footages are allowances,” McNett said. “Not everything may be listed in detail, but for the most part this should capture everything that goes in the building.”

The information is just conceptual, he said.

“This is a map to get to where we want to go,” he said.

Other issues, such as a plan to pay for the facility, also would have to be decided. On Thursday, there was some initial discussion on how a joint facility might be managed, what considerations besides the facility itself must be identified and what the next steps are to determining if a combined project is attainable.

One next step is hiring architects, which they have done. Since meeting Thursday, the wish list has been sent to ARC Architects, which the pool commission used previously to design its proposed facility, estimated to cost nearly $29 million.

The pool commissioners delayed that plan, over a year in the making, after efforts to raise half of the money through private donations fell far short of the $14 million goal and it became clear that the city might be willing to consider working on a joint project.

The city had been working with the Anacortes School District on the possiblity of a community center, with a rough cost estimate of $9 million, but that project had not yet been launched.

Like the pool district, the city’s earlier proposal also expected to rely largely on the hope of private donations.

It is unclear as of now what funding approach would be taken in a joint venture.

“We will make that decision once we understand the cost,” Gere said, adding that the division of cost responsibility between the two governing bodies will be fair and equitable.

Part of Thursday’s meeting was to go through the list of possible features in a joint facility and categorize which ones might be operated and funded by the pool, and which the city.

Both parties expressed satisfaction with the direction the steering group meetings are going.

“I’m very optimistic of the progress being made,” Mitch Everton, executive director of the Fidalgo Pool and Fitness Center told pool commissioners Thursday.

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