MOORHEAD — Moorhead's plan for a Community & Aquatic Center is "sketchy on the details, but it's in the hopper," said city governmental affairs director Lisa Bode.
Bode and City Administrator Chris Volkers drew up a preliminary plan this past week because the city is hoping to secure funding through the state Legislature from its bonding program in the next session.
The City Council approved last week a resolution asking for funding.
Bode said the proposed $25 million facility would include an indoor competition-sized swimming pool as the cornerstone of the facility "as long winters and harsh weather means indoor gathering and recreation opportunities are important to the well-being of residents."
It was also noted at the City Council meeting that the existing municipal swimming pool is aging and difficult and costly to maintain.
Other amenities in the plan include an outdoor splash pool, fitness and exercise space, fully licensed child care center, teenage and senior citizen gathering spaces, public meeting and multipurpose rooms, a cafe and locker rooms.
Bode said a number of publicly owned spaces have been identified for a potential location and the city is working on a final choice.
One option drawing a lot of attention is possibly coordinating the project with the substantial renovation and expansion of Moorhead High School planned to start in 2020.
It's possible that part of a school bond referendum funding could be used to construct the pool, saving on the overall cost of the facility.
Bode pointed out in an application to the state that the project could improve "health outcomes" for Clay County as it currently ranks 58th of Minnesota's 87 counties.
"Moorhead has higher-than-average premature death rate, an elevated premature age-adjusted mortality number and lower-than-average social associations," Bode wrote. "With a young population, we see no reason why Moorhead couldn't be in the top 10 Minnesota counties in terms of health outcomes."
The average age in the growing Moorhead community, which has increased in population by 14 percent since 2010 to 43,400 people, is 29.7 years of age. The projected population is expected to grow to 59,100 by 2040.
Bode and Volkers said negotiations have either started or will with the YMCA for child care, the three higher education facilities, community service organizations and the school district to "solidify programming " and cooperation in the effort.
The hope is to have a design with specifications completed by September 2020, with bids being awarded by spring 2021 and construction continuing through 2022.
The project bonding request would rank second for Moorhead behind the proposed 11th Street railway underpass, which is among the state transportation department's top priorities. The 11th Street project, closer to downtown and a fire station, would complement the Main Avenue underpass project currently being constructed.