Guest column: Making progress on new South Lake Tahoe rec center (opinion)
City of South Lake Tahoe voters, with the strong support of various areas of our community, overwhelmingly approved Measure P for Recreation, a 2% Transient Occupancy Tax increase to fund a new Recreation Center, in 2016.
Outreach meetings, design options and thorough feedback were given to and received by the community prior to the 2016 election with the outcome being a facility that will allow for locals, visitors and tournaments to enjoy and capitalize on the center including:
Two large full-size basketball courts that can be subdivided into four smaller courts to allow for four basketball games to be played simultaneously, as well as use for pickleball play, community indoor soccer league play, and other activities and tournaments.
A new swimming pool with eight lanes of 25-meter swimming, as well as a warming pool and other water features to allow for community use for all ages, as well as expanded capabilities for tournaments.
A fitness room, a teen room for Boys and Girls Club after-school use, community/meeting/studio rooms and an outdoor event plaza area and other facilities to allow families to enjoy the new center together.
After the measure was passed, City Council wisely chose to approve and appoint a fiscal oversight committee to ensure that the funds from Measure P were first spent only on this voter-approved Recreation Center with the agreed-upon features. This citizen-led committee would also ensure that, once the center was completed, funds would be appropriately allocated for other recreation projects within the city limits as identified in the Parks, Trails and Recreation Master Plan.
A delay to the center project ensued last fall, when city voters approved, by a narrow margin, a ban on all vacation home rentals in the city outside of the tourist core area.
The full effect of this ban on Measure P funds was undetermined, and again city management and council wisely chose to delay further progress on the recreation center until the full impact of the ban was identified.
Meanwhile, Measure P funds kept accumulating in a dedicated, interest-bearing account. The account currently has a balance of $7.5 million.
The Fiscal Oversight Committee and the greater Recreation Commission are pleased to see progress being made again relating to planning of the center. City management has identified the VHR revenue that will be generated in the Tourist Core areas (non-banned vacation rental area), as well as the remainder of the hotel/motel/timeshare revenue associated with Measure P, and is estimating bonding options based on conservative yearly tax revenues from the measure.
The previously-contracted architectural firm is being re-engaged to work through options ranging from a new center to an expanded but fully-renovated facility. They will determine and recommend which option would be most practical, fiscally responsible and possibly allow for part of the current center to remain open while building is completed on the new or renovated facility.
Regardless of whether the outcome will be a brand new center or a fully-expanded and upgraded facility, the Recreation Commission and the Fiscal Oversight Committee members have overwhelmingly advocated for features to be incorporated that were promoted and passed by South Lake Tahoe voters.
No Measure P funds should be spent on any other projects until the center, as promised to the voters, is completed. More information on the recreation center project as outlined in voter information material can be found at http://www.cityofslt.us/MeasureP
The Parks and Recreation Commission meets every second Wednesday of the month at 8 a.m. at the Recreation and Swim Complex. The public is encouraged to attend and weigh-in on the project as it progresses.
Jerry Bindel has lived on the South Shore since 1999. He is currently the chairman of the city’s Measure P Fiscal Oversight Committee and vice-chair of the Recreation Commission. He is also strongly involved in the local tourism community and is general manager at Forest Suites Resort at Heavenly Village.