The City of Scottsbluff, Scottsbluff Public Schools and YMCA are making waves.
On Monday, the Scottsbluff Public Schools Board of Education hosted a joint meeting with the City of Scottsbluff and representatives from the YMCA. The two-hour-long discussion focused on where a new facility would be located and how to pay for it.
By the end of the meeting, the boards came to a verbal consensus: A new aquatics center should be built at a neutral location. Funds from an LB 357 tax increase should pay for most of it.
The old aquatic center, formerly called Splash Arena, shuttered in 2018. A water leak — gushing 10,000 gallons per day at one point — would’ve cost the city or school district millions in temporary repairs. Instead, the city and district elected to close the pool which carried sentimental value for many community members.
Last month, former City Manager Rick Kuckkahn announced that officials with the city and the school district planned to host a public meeting. At the time, SBPS Superintendent Rick Myles said, two years of conversation behind the scenes was ready for public discussion.
Zac Karpf, president of the YMCA director’s board, told city and school officials that two options existed; rebuild the Splash Arena or build a new facility.
Karpf, who is also president of Platte Valley Bank, said a new facility would cost between $13 million and $15 million. Remodeling Splash Arena would cost between $7 million and $9 million, Karpf said.
School Board President Ruth Kozal said, “The significant differences between (a new facility and remodeling the Splash Arena), with Splash we can provide money to but it has limitations for capacity. With (a new facility), we could plan a little bit better for that.”
The possible location of such an aquatic center was a major point of discussion.
Karpf said that one of the most important factors when picking a location was space. He said that a new facility would require eight to 10 acres. That includes everything from parking to plumbing.
“And eight was kind of pushing it,” he said.
For reference, the area inside the Westmoor Pool fence is one acre.
Western Nebraska Community College and the area between Safeway and Main Street Market were brought up as possible neutral sites for the aquatic center.
“We didn’t really decide between the two,” Karpf said.
Another discussed site was the old Kmart. Councilman Jordan Colwell asked if the city could use eminent domain to force the owners to sell the property to the city.
“It’s always an option,” City Attorney Kent Hadenfeldt said. “We would have to show what the public purpose was and make sure we have the right to do it.”
Until the project is funded, the location is irrelevant. For that, Karpf and others suggested utilizing LB 357.
The city council agreed to discuss an LB 357 tax increase during one of its meetings. In short, the city council would have to pass the measure with four votes out of five. Then, the measure would have to be approved by voters in the primary or general election of 2022.