The Ridgeland Tourism Commission proposed building an aquatic center that will cost $33.5 million. The Commission released a study (posted below) that claimed Mississippi lacked adequate resources to host major swim meets and that current available facilities were old and falling apart. The study was also supported by the Sunkist Swim Team and city of Ridgeland.
The proposed aquatic center will be 88,700 square feet and built in two phases. The aquatic center will have a seating capacity of 2,500. There will be a competition area, locker rooms, concession stands, therapy pools, and a warm-up pool.
The study claims that there are only four olympic-sized pools in Mississippi and three do not offer adequate seating for major swim meets. It also claims that the only existing olympic-sized pool is 34 years old and in"disrepair" and "only has a temporary enclosure. There are 33 swim teams in a 25-mile radius of Jackson and 123 swim teams within a 200-mile radius.
The study also touts the economic benefits of hosting swim meets:
4 swim meets per year: $1.5 million
6 swim meets per year: $2.4 million
7 swim meets per year: $3.6 million.
Of course, the projection for six and seven swim meets per year includes USA swimming events i.e. regional and national events (umm.... how did those projections for Lowe's work out? Kior? Harborwalk? ) and of course it states in big bold letters that $8,037,160 is the estimated economic impact after three years. But wait (Sorry, I am now having a hard time writing this with a straight face), the study estimates the aquatic center will create 66 jobs and a total of 307 jobs if construction is included. Then of course the study states that if this aquatic center is not built NOW, the construction costs will rise. It even states that the costs in Jackson rose from $249/sq foot to $340/sq. foot.
Phase I will cost $24.7 million and phase II will cost nearly $9 million. The grand total estimate is....$33.5 million.
The report does not state how this project will be funded but the Mississippi Business Journal reported yesterday:
The facility would rely on corporate sponsorships — including the possibility of naming rights for big participants — and fees. It also would need a bond issue from the state.
A commitment from the local government and private sector would be essential to show the Legislature, said state Rep. Cory Wilson, Republican, for District 73. “Getting private buy-in and local buy-in is the key thing,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he started talking with city officials, during the 2016 legislative session. “I’m certainly supportive of the facility they’re talking about,” he said. Wilson acknowledged there will be competition for a bond issue, given the state’s needs – roads and bridges improvements and maintenance being high on the list – and its deficit budget.
Alan Hart, director of Community Development for Ridgeland, said the city may contribute acreage valued at about $1 million for the facility
The site would be east of Interstate 55, south of the Freedom Ridge Park with its sports fields and Lake Harbour Drive extension. Rest of article.
Kingfish note: There is probably a need for this aquatic center but taxpayers need to support it with their eyes wide open. Take the economic projections with a grain of salt. The study also makes no mention of what fees should be charged. What fee will be charged to the Sunkist swim team? Will high schools have to pay a fee to use it? Then there is the matter of using bonds to pay for this project. The state's needs are infinite. Should the state go on the hook for several million dollars? If there is an actual need for this project, then tell us there is such a need. However, just don't try to snow us with jobs and economic impact numbers that never seem to pan out in reality.