The South Windsor Town Council tonight will discuss the options and preliminary financials for the proposed recreation center at The Promenade Shops at Evergreen Walk, according to the agenda.
In his report to the council, Town Manager Matthew Galligan presented three options for a recreation center, with the net cost to the town ranging from $514,000 per year for a $5 million, 35,000-square-foot recreation center to $727,000 per year for a $7.54 million, 52,700-square-foot project.
All three projects, whose estimates include debt service and IRS depreciation, would include an aquatics center, a gymnasium and multipurpose rooms.
The operating cost of the smallest project - the 35,000-square-foot recreation center that Galligan recommends in his report should the council go forward - would be $714,000, according to Galligan’s preliminary pro-formas. The estimated revenue would be $581,000. The end result would be an operating loss of about $133,000. The IRS depreciation and debt service would cost about $380,000 per year.
Galligan used the Mansfield community center, which has a pool, as a base model off of which he worked.
The three versions of the project Galligan presented also did not include the controversial hockey rink proposal. If two indoor hockey rinks are added to the project, then the lease payment, plus the net cost of the recreation project is $1 million per year, Galligan said. The excess revenue from the hockey would lower the cost to about $813,000 per year, according to Galligan.
But even then, Galligan noted that there were other revenue figures that have been presented to the town concerning the hockey rinks. “These proposals make the amount of revenues this facility could generate uncertain,” Galligan wrote.
Based on the discrepancy in the numbers, Galligan requested that a consultant submit requests for proposal to see how much it would cost to operate the rink facility, as well as an indoor pool facility.
Galligan said that this could cause some delay in the the process, something that some members of the youth hockey association in town might not want to hear.
“I do not believe this is something that we should rush into,” Galligan said. “I know that the Youth Hockey Association would like to see it done right away, but it is a substantial project and should be thought out before the Council moves forward with any type of spending.”
What’s more, despite the proposal calling for indoor and outdoor hockey rinks, Galligan said that, after speaking with some experts in the field, that the two rinks - one Olympic size, the other NHL size - should be indoors.
Also, Galligan said that there is a discrepancy between what the youth hockey association says it pays for ice time currently, versus what the South Windsor Arena says the hockey association pays per year.
Galligan said that should the project include the hockey rinks, any contract with the South Windsor Youth Hockey Association, the Hartford Whale or any other team should be three to five year deals that have significant penalties should there be a default on the agreement.
Finally, Galligan said that the owner of the land at Evergreen Walk has not said how much a lease or an outright purchase for the space would cost.
Still, despite these questions, Galligan said that the project would be an “economic stimulus” to the town. Given that there are tough budget choices being made at the federal and state level that figure to impact localities, Galligan said that this year should be a “planning year.
“Every stone should be overturned to make sure that moving forward with any of these programs will be a positive impact to the community,” he wrote.
Toward that end, Galligan said that he is looking for private investors to perhaps take on some portion of the project, like the ice skating rinks. Galligan is also looking into the legalities of splitting the project so that some of it is done by private investors, while other portions are built through the town’s use of a 63-20 corporation.
“I have no qualms about the Town investing in its own recreation center or having myself and Staff running such a center, as that is our forte in Town Government,” Galligan said. “However, I do not know anything about hockey. I strongly feel that the best way to run such a program is a public/private partnership between a private entity that has the experience of running such facilities. … That type of partnership would bring together the expertise of both sides which could make the project successful.”
Still, Galligan urged the council to work together and wait until the requests for proposal came in before any decisions were made.