Simplified: The cost to use proposed new indoor pools and recreation centers is too high, several City Councilors told Sioux Falls Simplified this week after a council work session showed family passes could cost as much as $850 per year. Here's what it means for ongoing aquatics bond discussions.

Why it matters

  • The City of Sioux Falls has been working on plans to replace aging pool facilities at Kuehn and Frank Olson Parks for the past few years. Those conversations led to a broader discussion about the need for public indoor recreation space, ultimately resulting in plans for a new, $47 million facility at Frank Olson.
    • Meanwhile, the city has also agreed to purchase the Sanford Wellness Center at Tea/Ellis Road for $9 million.
  • Those plans have yet to win approval from the City Council, though, largely because councilors aren't yet satisfied with the financial model behind the proposal.
  • Councilor David Barranco said he'd like to see an annual pass cost no more than $400 for a family, with the hope that a more affordable price point will mean more people use the new facilities.
"I would rather have full facilities – even if we lose (more money) – than a sterile, empty facility with five rich guys in there," Barranco said.

What do other councilors say?

Councilor Jennifer Sigette said she'd like to see a monthly rate in the "$35 to $40 range" for families – compared to the $70 to $80 range presented by city proposals. She said when she asks people what they'd pay for a facility like the one proposed, the number is not that high.

"We don't need to build and purchase things that the public doesn't want," she said.

Councilor Miranda Basye also agreed pricing presented was too high.

Even Councilor Ryan Spellerberg – who's been the most vocal advocate for a higher user cost to make sure the city isn't taking on too much of an ongoing cost – said he could see an argument for lower prices.

  • Where he really struggles is with the proposed $580-per-square-foot price tag to build the indoor center at Frank Olson.
"Does it need to be $47 million?" Spellerberg said.

What are the other factors at play here?

There are a couple.

First, half of the City Council has been on the job for less than two months, so in large part they've expressed feeling like they need to learn more before making any kind of decision about a potential $77 million bond.

Second, while the city has strong data on the overall need for more indoor recreation space, councilors say they're not clear on what, specifically, people are looking for.

"The city's job is to fill the gaps when there's unmet (needs) in Sioux Falls for families and people," Sigette said. "Fitness centers are not an unmet need."

What happens next?

Councilors said they'd like to see more public input in the process, but they also said they could be ready to vote on the aquatics bond in a few months, alongside the regular budget vote.