In the state's current economic climate, governmental entities and not-for-profit agencies must think creatively to fund new capital-building projects and provide new services to their respective patrons, stretching tax dollars and operating funds further than ever before.
An innovative partnership between three such organizations " the city of Edmond, the YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City and Edmond Public Schools " shares the burden of building a state-of-the-art aquatic and recreation facility, which includes an Olympic-sized competition swimming pool, with a total project cost of $22 million.
Leaders working on the project said the enterprise is a harmonious marriage of need, opportunity and cooperation that would benefit the citizens of Oklahoma's sixth most populated city.
One of the final pieces of the parliamentary puzzle could be set in place next month when Edmond school district voters go to the polls to decide the fate of the district's annual bond issue, part of which would help fund construction of the competition pool.
The facility would attract swimmers and events from all over the state, increasing tourism and economic development in the city, Edmond Mayor Patrice Douglas said.
"Cities are having a hard time right now making ends meet, and I think cities are going to have to be willing to partner like this more and more to get projects like this done," Douglas said.
The proposed Edmond Recreation and Aquatic Center would be a 100,000-square-foot facility located just north of the city's multipurpose activity center and senior center at 2733 Marilyn Williams Drive at Mitch Park on Covell between Kelly and Santa Fe.
The facility would house an indoor warm-water leisure pool for families and seniors (including a waterslide and a lap pool), a full-sized YMCA fitness center, a basketball gym, children's play areas and an eight-lane, 50-meter competition swimming pool located in a connected building with seating for at least 800 spectators.
All three entities would help pay for the construction and infrastructure needed to open the facility. The YMCA would manage the facility, which would be available for city events and school needs.
The three parties agreed to contract with two architectural firms: Crafton Tull, which has worked on many state projects, such as the Boone Pickens Stadium renovations at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and the Tulsa Union Multipurpose Activity Center; and Dallas-based Brinkley Sargent Architects, whose portfolio includes Mustang Town Center, a multiuse community center in Mustang.
If the school bond issue passes, construction would start next summer, and the building should be ready by February 2013, said Bret Towne, Edmond's associate superintendent of district operations.
A series of agreements between the city, the school district and the YMCA make the project possible.
The city of Edmond has committed $6 million and would own the YMCA and recreation pool.
The city's funding comes from a penny sales tax that was approved in 2000, of which 0.125 percent was designated for parks and trails, Douglas said. When the MAPS-style tax was approved, a second city aquatic facility was set forth as a priority, she said, adding that the city's other aquatic center, Pelican Bay, located near E.C. Hafer Park at 1034 S. Bryant, is too small to meet current demand.
The city also will provide the land, utilities and infrastructure improvements for the facility, including increased parking and a future access road connecting to Santa Fe Avenue. According to its agreement with the YMCA, the city will be responsible for the structural integrity and the exterior care of the building and grounds.
The YMCA is also investing $6 million in capital, and its contribution will provide for the initial lease rights for the new building for 20 years, with two additional 10-year renewals, according to the agreement.
The YMCA will pay for the operating and maintenance expenses of the building and also will equip the building and provide recreational programming.
The city and the school district have agreed to each pay $50,000 per year toward operational costs for five years, after which the agreement will be renegotiated.
The YMCA will manage the facility, allowing access to the general public through membership fees. Through its agreement with the city, the YMCA will sell daily access passes to those who do not wish to obtain a membership, said Ashleigh Clark, city of Edmond public information officer.
The new facility, which will replace the smaller Trails YMCA located at 261 S. Santa Fe Ave., will join the original Edmond YMCA at 1220 S. Rankin St. as the city's second full-service YMCA location.
Edmond Public Schools is asking voters to approve a $29.9 million bond issue on Dec. 14. By law, the issue is split into three propositions. The first proposition, $19 million, is for capital improvements at 10 schools, technology and equipment. The second proposition, $10 million, is for the competitive pool, which the district would own, Towne said. The third proposition, for $900,000, is for transportation.
District voters have passed an annual school bond issue for 51 straight years dating back to 1958, Towne said.
The need for a new competitive pool arose because the university pools where Edmond's swim teams have rented time " at the University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma Christian University " are set to be decommissioned within the next few years, Edmond Superintendent David Goin said.
"In the absence of a replacement venue, loss of these pools would require us to discontinue the competitive swimming program," Goin said. "Further, current pool capacities make impossible the creation of additional water-related curriculum programs for students."
School officials are anticipating that passage of the bond issue will keep a stable tax rate because past bonds are being retired and the district's overall assessed value has increased slightly this year, Goin said.
The district initially passed on participating in the project due to funding difficulties, but a new elementary school that was planned for this year's bond issue was pushed back because the district could not afford to staff it in the next two years due to state funding cuts, Towne said.
The Edmond school board approved an interlocal cooperative agreement with the city of Edmond on Aug. 27 for the development of the competitive pool facility. The Edmond City Council approved an agreement with the YMCA on Aug. 23 that sets the terms of their deal.
Douglas said it was natural that challenges arose during the project's planning. Specifically, the schedule was one of the most daunting aspects from a governmental point of view, she said.
"The timing of it was a challenge, because we didn't think the schools were going to get to participate, and we moved forward on what was going to be a $12 million project. Then we got word that the schools were going to have a window of opportunity. So we stepped back and contacted the architects to see if there was a way to work the project to the benefit of all three partners," Douglas said.
The school district might not again have another opportunity in the near future to ask for bond
funding for a competitive pool, Goin said.
The other challenge involved trying to work through the different laws and regulations that each party must abide by, Douglas said.
"You have to make sure you comply with every one of those. It's not something that can be done overnight," she said. "There were many hours of working toward this and getting it to the point where every one of us felt like we were upholding our job of protecting the schools, protecting the city and protecting the members of the YMCA. It's never easy, but it's well worth it."
A great deal of effort went into trying not to put one group's specific interests above the others, said Mike Roark, Edmond YMCA executive director.
"It's very encouraging to be able to get to that place where everyone feels good about the process," Roark said. "I think that's the key, a spirit of cooperation, and I think we were able to have that with the school and the city, and it's just great to have partners like that."
Photo: David Goin, superintendent of Edmond Public Schools, stands at Mitch Park with the site for the proposed new YMCA in the background.