ROCHELLE — The vision of a large community recreation and aquatic center was on display Monday night during a special public forum held by the Flagg-Rochelle Community Park District at Spring Lake Marina.
Approximately 50 people attended the presentation conducted by park director Jackee Ohlinger, who shared details of the various amenities being proposed, explained financial estimates for operations and answered questions from the audience.
Ohlinger said if the district could secure funding for the $14 million project, the 93,000 square-foot facility would be built on the Helms South property just west of Walgreens at the corner of Jones Road and Ninth Street and would include a large 200-by-185 foot indoor turf field, a 120-by-185 foot gymnasium, two swimming pools in a 9,300 square-foot aquatic area, a 24-hour fitness center with cardio and weight equipment, a perimeter indoor walking track, classroom and program space, locker rooms, concessions, meeting rooms and staff offices.
The main entrance of the proposed facility would face north along Jones Road across from the tennis courts, the field house turf and gym space would be on the east side of the facility and the aquatic center would be located in the southwest corner of the building.
The main parking area would be available in a new paved lot in its current north location with approximately 200 spaces, while other parking would be available in a smaller lot on the south side of the facility.
Ohlinger explained that original plans for the community center called for two phases with aquatic center being added in the future, but last month the park board decided to present the project as one comprehensive plan with the pools included in the initial build.
“We know the need for this type of facility in the community is great,” Ohlinger stated. “When looking at the design and the amenities, we want to include as many activities we can to appeal to the most people.”
During the forum, Ohlinger presented revenue and expense projections for operating the community center with the majority of funding coming from monthly memberships.
“We expect 75 percent of the revenue will come from memberships,” she stated. “Based on our local research and in other regional communities, we expect 575 members in the first year on the low side and at least 650 memberships on the high side.”
Ohlinger said in addition of memberships, the facility would bring in revenue through daily usage fees, occasional youth sports tournaments and special events, partnership usage agreements, private event rentals and concessions.
“Conservatively, we could be close to breaking even in the first year, but we could realistically be realizing positive cash flow if numbers exceed our low-end expectations,” she said.
Ohlinger said the district staff offices would all be moved from the current Second St. and Eighth Ave. location to the new facility, and there would likely be staff added with the pool being year-round and more maintenance being required.
“I’m happy to announce that last week two different local residents stopped in and committed $50,000 each in donations to help pay for costs because they know this is something the community really needs,” she added.
At a special meeting on Jan. 7, park commissioners approved placing the proposal on the upcoming April 2 election ballot for voters to decide if general obligation tax bonds could be issued by the district in the amount of $11-$14 million to build the recreation center facility.
The board approved a separate ordinance at the special meeting that could also give them authority to issue up to $14 million in alternate revenue bonds. However, if a minimum of 7.5 percent of registered Flagg Township voters sign a petition asking the board to take the proposal to the voters, the board could not issue the bonds without it passing in a referendum vote.
The district received 603 signed petitions asking for a referendum, but the validity of the petitions is currently under review by an Electoral Board made up of county officials. A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for 9 a.m. this Thursday, March 7 in the Ogle County Courthouse.
If at least 7.5 percent of the signed petitions are upheld, then the park district could not issue alternate revenue bonds without voter approval. However, if the Electoral Board throws out a number of petitions for various reasons and the overall total drops below the required 7.5 percent, park commissioners could then legally issue the bonds with just a simple majority vote by the seven members.
Ohlinger explained to those in attendance the difference in the two types of funding possibilities and the reasoning behind the dual attempts in trying to gain authorization for issuing the bonds.
“The most cost-effective way to build this facility would be by issuing bonds to pay for it,” she stated. “This is why we are holding presentations like this so we can show the public about all the exciting plans for the facility and you can talk about it with your family and neighbors before they vote on it next month.”