MEDFORD, Ore. – This May, when Medford voters decide on a measure that could increase the city’s hotel tax, they’ll also decide on the first piece of funding for a $60 million aquatics facility. The city’s put public pool renovations on the ballot four times before. All were rejected. City staffers say if voters don’t approve the changes this time around, Medford’s last public pool, Jackson Pool, is just one problem away from shutting down permanently.
Nearly 81,000 people live in the City of Medford. There’s just one public pool to serve them all.
“We’re a city of nearly 81,000 and with one seasonal, failing pool – we need a place for people to teach kids to swim,” remarked Medford City Manager Brian Sjothun.
The city’s only operating pool, Jackson Pool, was built in 1960. City staff say it’s falling apart. “It’s one small problem away from being shuttered,” Parks and Recreation Director Rich Rosenthal told NBC5 News.
The city’s second public pool at Hawthorne Park closed after voters turned down a property tax in 2012 to make it an indoor facility.
“We are concerned about kids having a place to learn to swim. We have rivers and lakes everywhere,” City Councilor Clay Bearnson said. That worry, lead city council to once again appeal to the citizens of Medford for an aquatics facility, this time in the form of the roughly $60 million Medford Sports and Events Complex.
“This isn’t Brian Sjothun’s project,” Sjothun said of himself. “This has been in the leisure plan since 1970. Because we haven’t done one, we have to go big on this.”
The facility would be much bigger than the current public pool. The proposed complex would be a 90,000 square foot place for people to swim and play.
“Residents can say let’s wait for the private sector to build something for the city,” remarked Rosenthal. “We’ve been waiting for decades for that to happen. How much longer can we wait?”
Each year, Rosenthal says Medford citizens subsidize the Jackson Pool to keep it open for three months of the year. That costs $180,000 each year. The Medford Sports and Events Complex would cost more. “The expense to operate it,” said Rosenthal, “… would be $1.3 million per year.”
Rosenthal went on to say that with entry fees, lesson costs, and renting the center for events, he believes the facility could make so much it would cost residents the same as it does to operate the Jackson Pool.
While anyone could access the new facility by paying the entrance fee, Medford residents would pay less. The Parks and Recreation Department is still working out what those costs would look like.
Should the Measure 15-188 to increase the transient lodging tax pass, City Council will discuss the three other funding pieces during council meetings. Residents will have an opportunity to weigh in during public comment periods at those meetings.
Jennifer Elliott anchors the primetime newscast FOX26 First News at Ten on NBC5’s partner station, KMVU/FOX26. She also reports for NBC5 News. Jennifer began her career at NBC5 News in 2011 as a production assistant. Raised in Southern Oregon, she studied voice and piano while attending South Medford High School. After graduating from Brigham Young University, she returned home and added organ playing to her musical repertoire. In addition to her musical talents, Jennifer is an award-winning artist. She has also co-hosted Southern Oregon’s Got Talent. Jennifer is married and the mother of three children who keep her busy and very happy.