Proponents of new pool selling naming rights

An architect’s rendering of one of two pools at the proposed Fidalgo Aquatic & Fitness Center. Proponents are trying to raise $14 million of the $28.4 million cost through donations. The rest would be raised through a bond measure proposed for the February 2020 ballot.

The Fidalgo Pool and Fitness Center board of commissioners is offering naming rights to help raise half the cost of the estimated $28.4 million needed to build the proposed center. The rest would be raised through a bond proposed for the February 2020 ballot.

Naming rights range from $50,000 for a family changing room to $8 million for the center.

The fund-raising campaign began in October and continues through the year. The new, larger center with two pools would be built adjacent to the current one, built in 1975, which would be torn down and replaced by a parking lot.

As of Jan. 4, a donor gifted $50,000 toward construction of one of two family locker room and changing areas. Campaign coordinator Jennifer Pitner said two more naming-right donations are pending. “Our goal is to raise $14 million in contributions and fund the rest with a voter-approved bond,” she said.

If all goes as planned, construction would begin in summer 2020 with completion set for May 2022.

What do donors get?

According to state law (RCW 35.21.100), the district can accept donations from the public for construction of the aquatic and fitness center. However, donors cannot receive gifts in return, such as free admission, because that would constitute a gift of public funds. That means donors still have to pay to use the aquatic and fitness center. Donations do not affect taxpayers’ interests in this public property. Donors can only have naming rights.

“Many jurisdictions seek corporate and community partnerships to sponsor community programs and facilities as part of their business plans for funding,” according to the Municipal Research and Services Center, a nonprofit organization that provides legal and policy guidance to local governments in Washington.

“Community and corporate support may range from fund raising activities such as selling pavers, corporate sponsorship of an event or sports team, and/or the purchase of naming rights for a public facility for a period of time.”

Pitner said of potential donors: “They’ve all been very excited and supportive. Current users understand the effect the new aquatic center will have on the community and the limitations of the current facility. The new center will be here for 100 years. It’s an investment for five more generations.”

Jason Solie, project manager for TRICO Companies, said Monday that the proposed center is expected to last 100 years because of current construction methods and materials. His company built the Skagit Valley Family YMCA’s new aquatic center in Mount Vernon and was hired by the Fidalgo Pool & Fitness Center District to provide cost estimates for options to replace or renovate the facility here.

Cost to taxpayers, facility users

How much the resulting bonded indebtedness would cost property owners depends on several factors — length and amount of the bond, interest rate and value of taxable property in the district, according to Skagit County Deputy Assessor Annette DeVoe.

That value as of Jan. 4 is $5.8 billion, DeVoe said. Based on current interest rates, a $14 million bond with a life of 20 years could cost each property owner 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation. That’s $24 per $100,000 of a home’s value.

The district also separately collects 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to support maintenance and operations. That levy must be renewed by voters every six years. Voters renewed it in 2015 with 69 percent of the vote. It’s up for renewal in 2021.

Mitch Everton, executive director of the Fidalgo Pool & Fitness Center, said he didn’t know if commissioners would seek to increase the M&O levy in 2021. “Probably not, but that’s something that will be decided by commissioners in two years,” he said.

The district took in $1.5 million in revenue in 2018 — $700,000 from the M&O levy, the rest user fees and rental of district-owned property. Some fees were increased to keep pace with expenses — for example, a 10-time combo punch card went up from $50 to $55, for seniors from $48 to $53, but the cost for single-user day rate and Silver Sneakers did not go up, Everton said.

“Part of our challenge is keeping up with costs,” Everton said. “What’s pressuring us is, we’re a heavy natural-gas user and Cascade Natural Gas is raising rates. It’s really expensive to run the pool.”

An advantage of a new aquatic and fitness center is that it would “provide a lot more directed services that we can’t currently provide, which will drive more people to use our facility,” he said. Additional users will help cover operation costs.

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