A couple of hurdles remain to Lake Oswego's plan for new indoor tennis center

by: VERN UYETAKE - Anna Lesa Fisher plays tennis during a lesson at the Lake Oswego Indoor Tennis Center on Diane Drive. The four-court building is often in high demand, officials say, leading the city to seek a larger, replacement facility in the Stafford area.The Lake Oswego City Council is moving ahead with designing a new indoor tennis center.

The council agreed Oct. 2 to spend about $30,000 already allocated in this year’s budget on conceptual planning for the new facility. The decision followed more than two hours of discussion about whether to spend the money, which will come from funds raised at the existing indoor tennis center.

At the council meeting last week, questions revolved around an updated operational analysis presented that night. The analysis looked at market demand for indoor tennis and revenue and expense projections associated with the proposed new facility.

The new eight-court center would be about 73,000 square feet at what is known as the Rassekh property, at 18011 Stafford Road. The property was bought with voter-approved bond proceeds and slated for “active recreation” facilities. The existing four-court building on Diane Drive is heavily used but can’t expand in its present location, which is hemmed in by Springbrook Park.

Lauren Livingston of The Sports Management Group said the market analysis considered a 15-minute drive time to the facility, population characteristics within that area and local market research, including an inventory of local indoor VERN UYETAKE - Known as the Rassekh property, this nearly 10-acre site in the Stafford area could eventually be home to a new indoor tennis center planned by the city of Lake Oswego.

The standard or ideal ratio is 250 players per court, she said. Today, with at least seven new courts at the Stafford Hills club in Tualatin but without the addition of the four new public courts proposed in Lake Oswego, the ratio is 1,100 players per court, she said.

“The market can certainly support the number of courts that are being proposed as a part of this addition and could support many more courts beyond that to adequately serve the current demand,” Livingston told the city council.

The revenue analysis envisioned bumping up the tennis center fees from $18 hourly for court time to $24 an hour. The expense side considered a new full-time center manager and higher maintenance and energy costs.

Livingston said the facility could be funded with $1 million from the sale of the existing tennis building, $560,000 in accumulated tennis center earnings, $1 million from growth-related charges paid by developers and a $2.3 million revenue bond, likely backed by the city’s full faith and credit.

Kim Gilmer, parks director, said the next step, conceptual planning, is necessary to figure out whether the city can really build a new facility. In 2010, consultants estimated the building could cost $4.9 million, but that was based on a preliminary site review and could now be different, she said.

“Right now we have a pro forma that is solid on revenues and expenses,” Gilmer sad. “But the big animal in the room here is the construction cost. ... Without an updated number, we don’t know if this pro forma actually pencils out.”

The facility would have to meet Lake Oswego’s codes and address community concerns during the city’s review process. It could open as soon as 2015, if all goes according to the city’s plans. Gilmer said she could return to the city council with revised numbers from the conceptual planning in December.

A majority of the council agreed to move ahead, although the decision wasn’t unanimous.

Councilor Mike Kehoe said although he plays tennis, he doesn’t support the project.

“I’m not convinced it’s the job or duty of government in any city to build a tennis center to start with,” Kehoe said, noting that demand might decrease when the city raises rates for court time, as Lake Oswego now charges less than many other tennis facilities. “Perhaps by raising the rates to what the real market is it won’t be so overwhelmed.”

Kehoe also suggested the city consider covering some outdoor courts instead of building a new indoor facility.

Councilor Donna Jordan said she’d rather wait until Metro decides whether the city can bring the Rassekh property into the urban growth boundary — a move necessary to build a city recreational center there. The council is now awaiting Metro’s decision, which is expected in November.

Still, she said she wasn’t confident there was a feasible option other than the Rassekh property, and so she favored moving ahead with conceptual planning.

“To me what is important is (the tennis center) is at least revenue neutral, that it pays for itself,” Jordan said.

Councilor Mary Olson was also leery of moving ahead before Metro gives the city a green light.

“If it is not brought into the UGB this is a moot discussion; we cannot move forward,” she said.

Councilor Jeff Gudman said he felt the financing decision and elements of the operations analysis were “straight forward” when compared to other decisions the council has faced, and he supported working to refine numbers and get more information.

“There is enough merit in what has been presented to go forward,” he said, “but I remain very skeptical of us being able to go forward beyond that.”

Mayor Jack Hoffman supported moving ahead in hopes of securing “a better handle on construction costs” and to review the potential sales price of the existing tennis facility.

“It may be the Lake Oswego style of a tennis facility may not pencil out,” he said. “But then we know.”

Councilor Bill Tierney agreed.

“We don’t have all the answers,” he said. “That’s what we intend to find out.”

Councilor Sally Moncrieff voiced strong support for moving on to conceptual planning. She said the tennis center is different than other amenities desired in the city.

“This is one time when the users can pay for their own facility,” she said. “This isn’t going to come out of the general fund. This isn’t going to raise taxes. This is the users paying for what they’re asking for.”

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