The Sammamish City Council gave informal direction Tuesday evening to their consultants to pursue the possibility of building a community aquatic center on the city-owned Kellman Property - just west of the .
The 9.35 acres - of which seven are suitable for construction - sit near the . Because the city owns the land, overall costs could be lower as compared to buying property at the other locations under consideration - the Southeast Fourth Street area and site near .
Craig Bouck, president of Denver-based Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture, said his team of consultants supports the selection of the Kellman site, partially because of its views to the west and proximity to the Sammamish Library and .
"There is an energy here that doesn't exist elsewhere in the city," he said, adding that he and his architects do not want the community center to detract from the sweeping views.
But there are caveats to the next steps: The architects and city staff will need to study this property in more detail. If, for example, they find that the soil is not as suitable as they expected, there will be more discussion. The Kellman Property also has wetlands, according to a presentation given to the city.
On Monday, at a community center meeting with residents, one woman raised similar environmental concerns for the sites under consideration.
In May, Bouck talked about building on the three sites - and explained that sloped terrain can add to the costs. Other factors to consider, he said at the time, are rain, drainage, the soil and community impact.
"All of those things certainly make building on these sites more difficult than if it were a flat place in the middle of the plains somewhere," he said at the time.
But the City Council guidance gives residents, architects and city staff more clarity on what could become the largest public infrastructure project in the city in recent years - and one in which the financing still needs to be determined. The costs, including debt expenses, are a concern for some residents.
Other residents have voiced support for a community aquatic center, saying that they want indoor recreational opportunities especially during the long Northwest winters. The City Council received a focus study report on Tuesday, noting that participants in the 12-person group favor the Kellman site.
The guidance also keeps the schedule, which can change, on track: The architects are expected to return to Sammamish in July with more specific dollar estimates for this "preferred" site, Jessi Richardson, parks and recreation director, said this week.
Bouck said his team will return next month with "parts and pieces" of what could become a community aquatic center. He added it is always possible to have the center built in phases.
At its meeting on Monday, June 20, the City Council is expected to entertain a formal proposal to pursue, in greater detail, possibly building on the Kellman site.
At the Tuesday night meeting - at which about 18 people at most sat in the audience - there were some questions about the Kellman site and preserving the views to the west.
Parks Commissioner Mary Doerrer explained that she's lived in what is now Sammamish for more than 30 years and voiced concern about the traffic and views - should this project actually go forward on this site.
"Could cost overruns outweigh benefits?" she said. "I just want to make sure synergy doesn't turn into chaos."
Steve Wright, another parks commissioner and a dad, explained that he favors the Kellman site because of its central location and proximity to the library. For example, parents could work out at the gym while kids studied at the library.
Bouck talked about preserving "view corridors" if the community center was built on the Kellman site. Computer-generated drawings of the possible community center show that some structures could be partially built into the land - which could keep clear views for those standing in the Sammamish Commons plaza.
Councilwoman Nancy Whitten raised the question of cost, dubbing one overall estimate in the $70 million range as unaffordable. "The process to date has been divorced from cost," she said.
Later, Deputy Mayor Tom Odell, who worked for Boeing, used a flight analogy: "We're a long way from launching this airplane."
Richardson said future focus groups will look at the components of the community aquatic center. Once the components are determined, that should shed more light on the costs, and the architects also can fill in expense details.
In May, there was talk of building a 98,000-square-foot community aquatic center. The architects arrived at the size after listening to what residents said they wanted.
If it is built at 98,000 square feet, the community aquatic center would be larger than the Haselwood Family YMCA in Silverdale. That facility is under construction and will be 85,000 square feet.
For the Kellman site, there was an initial $64.4 million overall project cost attached to the community center of that size at that time. Of that amount, about $29.1 million would be spent on the actual building. About $10.8 million would be used for parking space.
Site and off-site construction costs - which could include traffic improvements - was estimated at about $6.3 million. Design-related fees were about $4.7 million. Furniture and supplies might cost $2.6 million. A sales tax, estimated at 9.5 percent, would total about $4.5 million and a contingency fund could be $5.6 million.
But numbers can change.
The initial design included an eight-lane lap pool. But if that is removed, the building size could shrink by about 20,000 square feet, Bouck said in May.
That also could help save about $10 million in construction costs and up to $100,000 in operational expenses.
The 98,000-square-foot community center design also includes two basketball courts similar to ones used at high schools - which adds to the size. The reason, Bouck said in May, is because consultants realized that the high school basketball courts on the Plateau are often booked.
Another issue, as the consultants pointed out in their presentation, is that many of the city's community events would center around the Sammamish Commons area. Structured parking would likely be necessary.
Community aquatic centers can see up to 600 people use a facility on a daily basis, consultants said. On busy days, that number could increase to 1,000 people.
The Sammamish Library remains popular for students to study after school. Parents also bring their kids there for various educational and . Each year, there's also the . In 2010, an average of about 650 people visited the Farmers Market each week, which runs from May through September.
Sammamish Commons also is home to a , which is popular with residents during the day and often in the middle of the night.
At the Monday meeting, Keith Hayes of Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture fielded many questions from residents about the project.
"This is democracy at its best," he observed at one point.
Editor's note: The attached PDF document includes cost estimates and site information for a possible community aquatic center in Sammamish. Consultants hired by the city assembled the information. They also released possible fees to use the community center ($5 to $9 for a daily rate,$300 to $450 for a three-month family pass and $800 to $1,200 for an annual family pass). These estimates are based on what other similar providers charge in the region and cost recovery models. It is possible that fees will differ for Sammamish residents and those who do not live in the city.