November 8, 2022 |
A proposed multi-million-dollar aquatic center in Saratoga could sink or swim based on answers to questions about budgets and financial risks to the town.
Nick Haderlie has spent the past year putting together a feasibility study on building an indoor water-sports facility in Saratoga. Haderlie, the head instructor at Platte Valley Martial Arts, presented his completed proposal to the town at last Tuesday’s council meeting. Called the Platte Valley Aquatic Center, Haderlie began his presentation by informing the council that his study was paid for entirely by donations.
Haderlie’s report details how a proposed non-profit corporation would assume control over all recreation duties in Saratoga and Encampment if the facility is built. The martial arts instructor is asking the town to donate all the money earmarked for the Recreation Department to his private corporation.
Council members offered no real objections to the suggestion that the town’s rec department, and its budget, would be surrendered to an outside, private, corporation. It is unclear whether the non-profit would be created before or after construction of the aquatic center was completed.
The project is costly. Depending on how much money is raised, Haderlie has two developed two different designs. Option A, as he describes it, would cost as much as $12.5 million. The second plan, or Option A+, would include upgrades to the facility, and cost almost $16 million. Starting with Option A, Haderlie described the differences between the two ideas.
Haderlie wants to build the center on town-owned land between the library and high school on West Elm Avenue. One of the entrances would be on South 7th Street, across from the school. The proposed lease agreement is based a similar project in Casper — The WYO Sports Ranch. Like Haderlie’s design, the Sports Ranch is privately funded, and will be built on public land. Haderlie described his lease concept to the council.
Haderlie’s plan is to have the entire cost of the aquatic center covered by donations. He told the council that John and Leslie Malone, owners of the Silver Spur Ranch, have pledged one third of the entire construction budget, no matter which plan is chosen. Haderlie also said he has another donor prepared to contribute a substantial amount of money if he can get the project off the ground.
Not only will construction be costly, the day-to-day operation won’t be cheap either. Haderlie acknowledged that Saratoga’s recreation budget would not cover the entire thing. He told the council he is seeking other sources of income.
Some on council expressed interest in the plan. Councilman Ron Hutchins expressed concerns about the expense projections in the study. Wages account for most of the aquatic center’s budget. Hutchins said he believes the proposed minimum wage of $13 an hour for staff is too low.
Hutchins said he was also concerned about the town’s financial obligations should the private company fall short of expected construction milestones or fail in any way. Saratoga faces two possible worst-case scenarios. The town would inherit a partially built structure or a money pit that it can’t afford. Haderlie said safeguards are written into the lease to protect the town. He added that every undertaking carries a level of risk.
Haderlie explained to the council how they would not need to supply any extra funding if the town would approve his lease and allow his corporation to take control of the recreation department’s resources.
The idea of building the aquatic center on public land comes at a time when more private businesses are asking to assume responsibility over the town. Valley Village Child Care is in talks with Saratoga to lease the town-owned Corbett Medical Building. They are requesting the town perform costly repairs to bring the structure up to code.
Valley Village also petitioned the council to allow the privately owned company to fence off part of Kathy Glode Park, across from the medical building, effectively denying the public from that section of the park while the daycare was using it. The daycare has since withdrawn the request.
The town has also made an agreement with Danny and McCall Burau to have them mow Odd Fellow’s Park, next door to their restaurant on East Main Street.
Councilwoman D’Ron Campbell made a motion to have town attorney Jane France review Haderlie’s lease request. The motion passed. Councilman Hutchins said he is especially excited to see the aquatic center be built.
The Town of Saratoga will consider Nick Haderlie’s proposed design for an indoor water-sports complex in town. There are still many obstacles to overcome, mainly monetary, before the Platte Valley Aquatic Center becomes a reality.