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New competitive swimming pool facility gets green light to use hotel tax dollars

A new competitive swimming facility funded by a public-private partnership got a green light on Tuesday.

All members of the board for the Greater Boise Auditorium District, a public entity funded by hotel room taxes that funds sports facilities and the Boise Centre, voted to put $5 million toward the construction of an aquatic facility to host competitive swim meets in the Treasure Valley. The project, which could open as early as next spring, will feature a 50-meter pool, a 25-meter warm-up pool, and bleachers for spectators inside a covered building suitable for use all year round.

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It will be located at 3575 S. Findley Avenue, off Federal Way in Southeast Boise near Fred Meyer.

Directors dub project “low risk”

Idaho Competitive Aquatics, a for-profit group, looking to boost competitive swimming in Idaho, is heading up the project. It first proposed the project to GBAD in November, and the group appeared before the board several times earlier this year as members studied the proposal. After reviewing the financials for ICA and a feasibility study from a consultant, the board greeted the proposal with enthusiasm.

“I think this is one of the lowest risk projects we’ve ever evaluated,” Walker said. “It’s a win for us and the stakeholders.”

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GBAD put up the funds to purchase the land for $1.9 million as part of the deal. The rest of the $5 million will go toward the construction of the building around the pool. GBAD will own the land and the building through the partnership, but ICA owns the pool and all of the other assets on the property. In the event ICA defaults, GBAD will take ownership of the facility.

Director Hy Kloc said he supported the project, but before he voted yes he wanted to ensure this will not be undercutting existing pools, like the Treasure Valley YMCA. According to state code, GBAD is allowed to provide services complementary to what already exists, but not anything that will compete with those services.

Project praised for focus and efficiency

Idaho Competitive Aquatics
Site plan for the Idaho Competitive Aquatics facility in Boise. Via Lombard Conrad Architects

Ryan Stratton, with ICA, told the board the organization plans to provide the kind of pool space the YMCA doesn’t have room for, not compete with them.

“The Y isn’t in the business of renting water space to club teams,” he said. “They have their own club teams and swim lessons. We won’t see it as competition. We’re trying to provide a service the Y does not provide and we intend to charge market rates.”

Before Tuesday’s vote, GBAD hired Texas-based consulting firm Conventions, Sports & Leisure International to review the project. The project earned a solid review from Bill Krueger, the principal who completed the analysis. He cited the narrow scope, demand for this specific type of pool, and relatively low amount of financial commitment required by GBAD as reasons the project is a good investment.

“Unlike many public sector-owned aquatic centers and YMCA pool facilities, the proposed ICA Boise Aquatic Center will not attempt to be ‘everything to everybody,’” the report said. “Its financial viability rightly depends on a more focused and efficient approach. The ICA Aquatic Center would essentially function as a quality, affordable rental and daily use facility that also provides in-house lessons and training.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at [email protected] or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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