Medford voters pass tax measures to fund sports and event center

MEDFORD, Ore. — Medford voters approved a pair of lodging tax measures that will partially fund a $60 million Medford sports and events center. But there’s still much more to be done before any shovels hit the ground.

“I see this as a generational facility, something that we can be proud of,” Kevin Stine, Medford City Councilor, said.

Medford Parks and Recreation Director Rich Rosenthal says he thinks the pandemic made the vote even closer.

“There will be a time where our economy recovers and people will be back to work and participating in sporting activities,” Rosenthal said.

The new facility will include much more than a pool. The nearly 90,000 square foot complex in west Medford will include a competition pool, splash pad, event center and more.

“It’s an all ages, multi-use facility that can fill so much of that hole that we have,” Rosenthal said.

With more features, comes a bigger price tag with an estimated operating cost of $1.3 million per year. Rosenthal says with entry fees, lesson costs, and renting the center for events, he believes the facility could make enough revenue to equal the expenses for the aging Jackson Pool.

“Certainly the economic circumstances that the city is encountering like everyone else here could very well influence the decision making or the timing,” Rosenthal said.

But even with two lodging taxes passed by voters, city council still needs to approve three more pieces of funding, including adjusting the park utility fee, expanding the car rental tax and refinancing the U.S. Cellular Park Bond.

“We also have to finalize the architectural and engineering components, go through a conditional use permit process and get the permits and that process alone will take several months, maybe even over a year,” Rosenthal said.

In an ideal scenario, Rosenthal says groundbreaking could start as early as late 2021, with plans projecting an opening in 2023.

The Medford City Council plans to meet May 28, for a study session to discuss the next steps for the sports and event center.

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