Recreational Task Force Unveils Findings and Recommendations for Saline's Rec Center


By Carleen Nelson-Nesvig, STN Writer

In the October 2nd city session, the Recreational Task Force presented its findings and some initial recommendations for the future of Saline's Recreation Center. The task force was entrusted with securing a consulting firm to conduct a feasibility study. This initiative received approval from the City Council in January of this year. The results of the study were shared with the public during this session, along with Choice One, Phase One.

Parks & Rec Director Sunshine Lambert, emphasized the importance of the Recreation Center to the city, stating, "The Rec Center is an integral part of Saline, and people support it.”

Pat O'Toole, of consulting firm Berry Dunn, provided insight into the company's extensive experience in park, recreational, and library consulting, highlighting their decades-long track record in this field.

“The feasibility study is comprehensive, containing valuable data that everyone should consider, said Director Lambert. “It aligns with initiatives aimed at promoting Saline in cooperation with area schools. The study [conducted by Berry Dunn] provided a thorough assessment of the Saline Rec Center’s operations, market area, current conditions of the facilities, opportunities for growth and recommendations to maximize the benefit of this valuable asset to the community for the next 30 years. The desire is for this study to serve as the catalyst for future enhancements to the facility so that we can serve the health and well-being of those who live, work and visit our community.”

The presentation focused on operational analysis, needs assessment, and concept plans, with a particular emphasis on aquatic facilities. Colleen O’Toole, Saline’s City Manager, pointed out, “The full feasibility study does actually recommend multiple phases for a comprehensive rehabilitation of the Rec Center. It is just staff’s recommendation at this time to focus in on the aquatic center improvements because that is where the community expressed the greatest desire to see improvements as part of our survey and stakeholder engagement efforts. That is what we paid the most attention to in the presentation to Council.”

Public feedback gathered through surveys and engagement stations, indicated strong satisfaction with fitness amenities and a desire for improvements in the Aquatic Center, locker rooms, and the lobby. The proposal to introduce a family leisure pool and enhance opportunities for play garnered substantial support.

OPTION ONE, PHASE 1 Included updated pool with family play features would include 1200 SF Pool Expansion, 6 Lane Lap Pool, Zero Depth Entry and Lazy River. If the City selects Option 1, Phase 1, the projected cost is between $6.8 million and $7.3 million. Mayor Marl shared that government funds may be available to support the project should it be approved.

In a follow up call from the STN, Lambert shared the following: “Looking at the Rec Center usage over the past year (10/16/22-10/16/23), we had 110,827 membership check ins and day passes sold. The overall usage of the facility was much greater when you add in swim lessons participants, league players, day camp users, birthday party participants, special event participants, rental attendees, water aerobics participants, volunteers completing projects, etc.”

When completed, this phase is anticipated to yield 700 additional memberships, with primary extra expenses being related to lifeguarding costs. The membership increase is projected to generate approximately $280,000. in additional revenue. With effective marketing, Berry Dunn anticipates that by the third year, membership numbers will reach a range of 2,500 to 3,200.

O’Toole expects the Council to present again at the second meeting in November on financing alternatives for the phase I project. There were no further options or phases discussed during this presentation, however the following improvements were mentioned as possible future work when moving forward:

  • Updated locker rooms - gender neutral
  • Elevated walking track
  • Improved front desk circulation
  • Improved accessible parking
  • Additional multipurpose program space
  • Expanded office spaces
  • Additional gymnasium space or indoor turf

According to O’Toole, “The City is excited to share this vision for improvements to a valuable community asset. Over the coming months we expect more conversation around how best to pursue this project and the ways we can continue to leverage the Rec Center as part of our broader community wellness goals.”

Photos by Carleen Nelson-Nesvig

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