Batavia Park District looking ahead after voters reject recr center proposal

  • After voters shot down a tax hike to build a 65,000-square-foot recreation center, the Batavia Park District is looking ahead at other long-term capital projects.

    After voters shot down a tax hike to build a 65,000-square-foot recreation center, the Batavia Park District is looking ahead at other long-term capital projects. Courtesy of Batavia Park District

 
 
Updated 3/19/2020 12:08 PM

A failed tax-hike referendum to fund a new indoor recreation center won't stop the Batavia Park District from looking ahead at other major projects on the horizon, leaders say.

Voters on Tuesday rejected borrowing $27.1 million to build the proposed 65,000-square-foot facility at the Fox Valley Business Park near Route 25. Fueled by feedback from park district residents, the project aimed to address a lack of indoor activity and recreation space available, Executive Director Allison Niemela said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We're disappointed, but I don't want to lose sight of the incredible amount of work that went into problem-solving and finding solutions for increasing indoor space," she said. "And when you're faced with disappointments, you have to learn and grow from your experiences."

Park district leaders will evaluate the process and reflect on the outcome, she said. And then they'll focus their energy on a comprehensive master plan eight months in the making that is expected to "set the stage" for capital projects in the next decade.

It's too early to say whether the Batavia Activity & Recreation Center -- or any variation of it -- will be included in those long-range goals, Niemela added.

Plans for the facility called for an eight-lane indoor pool with spectator viewing, weights and cardio strength circuit equipment, space for group fitness programs, an indoor turf area and a multi-activity court gym.

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The design and amenities were developed based on years of community input, Niemela said, including focus groups, a listening tour, workshops and other engagement opportunities that continued until Tuesday's election. The referendum question was ultimately shot down by more than 60% of voters.

If the tax increase had been approved, the owners of a $300,000 house who currently pay $556 to the park district would have seen their annual property tax bills increase by $178 for 20 years.

Though Niemela didn't want to speculate on why the plan didn't gain support from the majority, she did point to a drastically changing economic climate caused by the global spread of the coronavirus.

"Three weeks ago, the world was in a different place than it was (Tuesday)," Niemela said. "No one anticipated a pandemic that would lead to economic uncertainty and a stock market crash."

Whether the district will seek a tax increase again in the future is unknown. For now, she said, officials will assess the community's needs and focus on the "really exciting things we have cooking."

"The Batavia Park District exists to enrich the quality of life for its residents," Niemela said. "We will never lose sight of that."

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