Rochester still working on “concept” for $65 million rec center behind sales tax extension

The tail continues to wag the dog in Rochester officials’ quest for a sexy project to sell to the public in an effort to continue raking in millions of dollars annually for the next 25 years from the local sales tax set to expire. Last year city councilors decided Rochester could use a $65 million regional sports and recreation center that depends on residents voting to extend the local sales tax, though it wasn’t clear who’d use the facility and why it was needed.

As American Experiment noted at the time, the city had to hire a consultant to make the case for the project and cover their tracks.

Rochester officials must be fans of the “if you build it, they will come” way of doing things. They’re racing to fill in the blanks on a vaguely defined $65 million regional community and recreational center whose primary initial purpose appears to be convincing state lawmakers to open the door to extending the city’s local sales tax that expires in 2024.

…In the search for ideas on uses for the proposed $65 million community center, a dozen “co-designers” from various interest groups will be paid to join the project. The city has no estimate of how much the design process will cost taxpayers, though the facilitator corralling the co-designers will likely receive a reported $40,000.

Fast forward a year later and city officials remain as committed as ever to spending $65 million. But alas, they still need help identifying who’d use the facility and what activities would be provided that aren’t already available to Rochester area residents.

So the Post Bulletin says the Rochester City Council stands poised to throw even more pubic funds at yet another consultant to provide them with the much-needed answers.

Work to identify needs and develop a concept for a proposed regional sports and recreation complex is expected to cost up to $184,800.

On Monday, the Rochester City Council will take under consideration the hiring of design and engineering firm ISG Inc. to study the sports complex proposal, which is part of a request for extending the city’s half-cent sales tax.

The consultant with a Rochester office of ISG would be tasked with conducting community engagement efforts, as well as providing a concept design that would address gaps in current sports and recreation opportunities in the city.

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.

City staff said the concept developed with ISG will be used to show local voters what would be done with extended sales tax, which generates approximately $12 million a year.