Rochester hires pricey consultant to bolster $65 million rec center proposal

A year ago, Rochester city officials decided they wanted to build a $65 million regional sports and recreation center. But city hall had trouble articulating the need for it, other than the obvious, namely as an attractive vehicle for convincing voters to extend the local sales tax that is set to expire in 2024.

As American Experiment noted last month, the city council was still struggling a year later to demonstrate the public need for the $65 million facility.

The lack of a bon fide plan, however, hasn’t prevented city hall from asking state legislators to okay putting the tax extension before Rochester voters next year for approval anyway. In fact, city officials want to extend the tax until 2050 to fund a whopping $205 million in road and water projects, plus establish a $50 million “economic vitality fund.”

Yet the centerpiece of their sales pitch remains the ill-defined regional sports and recreation center city officials still struggle to make the case for a year later.

The most concrete description of the evolving sports facility concept comes from Mayor Kim Norton on the city website.

To further align our strengths as a community, a Regional Community and Recreation complex is envisioned. Specific project elements will be further defined through substantial community and stakeholder engagement and an equity focused co-design team. Initial concepts include a synthetic turf field complex, a tournament quality pickleball complex, outdoor recreation features, supportive indoor recreation features, and related community focused elements.

But there’s still hope for elected officials who’ve been hanging out on a limb. The Rochester City Council recently approved spending $185,000 to hire an out-of -tate consultant to bolster the spendy project by making the case for the facility. The Post Bulletin explains their mission this way:

An effort to identify existing gap among Rochester’s sports and recreation facilities has started.

The city has engaged Sports Facilities Cos., a Florida-based sports and wellness facility consulting firm, to conduct a gap analysis to assess current facilities as the city seeks permission to extend the existing sales tax to fund the construction of a potential regional sports and recreational complex.

SFC wants residents to complete a 28-question community survey as part of a “gap analysis”.

“The data collected through this survey will provide important information in regards to community needs, opinion on current facilities, and where the gaps in service are as it relates to community use. The insight provided through this survey will be used when analyzing the market and is an important factor in making recommendations for current asset improvements as well as future development,” shared Cyle Erie, Project Executive with ISG.

The survey includes softballs, such as “If a new regional sports and recreation complex is constructed sometime in the future, do you think that you or your household would use/visit this type of facility?” It also asks for a respondent’s gender identity, offering six options, followed up by a question on sexual orientation with seven potential responses.

It’s a team effort all the way.

Other project-consulting partners include ISG, a local to Rochester and national leader in Sports and Recreational Facility Design and LSE Architects, a design leader in Community based projects and a Black owned Minneapolis based firm who focuses on diversity and inclusion and design that reflects the communities being served. Intercultural Mutual Assistance Association (IMAA), a Rochester based organization and project partner.

Yet perhaps the most revealing question concerns the extensive network of sports and recreation outlets already available in Rochester. It asks which of 14 city sports and recreation facilities respondents visited in the last year, a lengthy list including the National Volleyball Center, Rochester Regional Stadium, Rochester Regional Sports Complex, Rochester Recreation Center, soccer fields, a baseball complex, a softball complex, two sports complexes and a youth fast pitch softball complex, among others. Not bad, although there’s no pickleball sports complex on the city list of venues.