Council to give input on rec center

Published 10:01 am Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Austin City Council is going to give some feedback on a proposed community recreation center.

The council will discuss Vision 2020’s Community Recreation Center Committee project during its work session Monday as part of the project’s planning.

The city of Austin has partnered with several organizations to help plan for the rec center over the past few years and the committee hopes to get the council’s opinions on how the rec center can best serve the community.

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Vision 2020 volunteers are looking at two downtown sites for the rec center, including the Austin Utilities downtown plant.

The group has made strides since Vision 2020 formed in 2012. Committee members have gathered research, done a feasibility study on the community’s recreation needs and narrowed a list of 24 potential recreation center sites in the area down to two possible downtown locations.

The feasibility study, performed by Anderson, Niebuhr & Associates Inc. of the Twin Cities, found 58 percent of Austin and nearby residents would either definitely, probably or maybe join a new YMCA/rec center, 90 percent of current members would continue at an upgraded facility, and 41 percent of residents who wouldn’t join the Y would at some point use a pay-per-use portion of the rec center.

The $54,000 study used in-depth phone interviews with 21 “influential community members,” a focus group of Hispanic families and parents with young children, and surveys with 100 current Austin YMCA members, 350 Austin residents and 50 Mower County residents near Austin. It was accurate within plus or minus 10 percentage points for YMCA members and plus or minus 5 percentage points for residents, and assumed a Y membership would be $45 monthly for individuals and $65 for families.

Yet the group found renewed interest last fall after Vision 2020 and Austin Public Schools announced a $5.2 million dome and artificial turf project to renovate Wescott Field.

The committee has researched other rec centers in communities like Andover, Minnesota, where cities share the rec center space with a local YMCA. Big changes could take place if the YMCA chooses to help run a rec center in Austin, but committee members say they hoped to make a rec center affordable and keep membership costs where they are currently.

The new rec center could have more amenities such as a large fitness space with a track for walking and running, an aquatic center featuring multiple pools, therapeutic sauna and whirlpool, and more.

Yet the final plan won’t be hashed out for some time.