Aquatics and event center proposed to Medford City Council

MEDFORD, Ore – The city of Medford is moving forward with plans to build a more than $50 million aquatics and event center. However, Medford’s Parks and Recreation Director Rich Rosenthal says it’s still several steps away from final approval.

The plans for the 160,000 square foot facility were introduced at the city council study session Thursday. The plans include multiple water slides, lazy river, competition pool and much more.

“As well as a 52 hundred foot splash pad, similar to he one at Hawthorne Park. Maybe a little more tricked out than that,” Rosenthal said.

There is also a 90,000 square foot indoor event center under the same roof, fit for basketball and other recreational activities. It can also be used as a meeting space for trade shows and conventions.

The proposed aquatics and event center would be built at Wes Howard Memorial Sports Park in West Medford. It’s 53 acres of mostly undeveloped land that Rosenthal says is an ideal location. It was within Medford’s growth boundary, but not in city limits until last week.

“Not only are we meeting existing needs and needs into the future, but down the line there will be enough space for additional facilities or expansion,” Rosenthal said.

The city and many local residents have been working to bring a new public pool to Medford, but voters have repeatedly rejected efforts. But Rosenthal says a city survey found the majority of the public wants a pool.

“Medford is very deficient and under served and in terms of aquatic space. There’s one municipal pool, seasonal pool, outdoor pool at Jackson, which is 59 years old,” Rosenthal said.

This plan could cost between 57 and 60 million dollars.

“These things aren’t getting any less expensive and at some point Medford needs to decide whether if you want new facilities, you’re going to have to figure out a way to fund it, or not have them,” Rosenthal said.

While the city has many more steps to take before finalizing the plan, none may be more important than how it will be funded. Options the city discussed Thursday include an increase in the lodging tax, an adjusted park utility fee or altered airport car rental tax.

The council will decide on the timing of any potential vote, but voters will have their chance to weigh in.  If funding is secured, construction could be complete in as short as three years. Voters could even see funding options on the ballot next year.

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