Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor | Is the Sports Complex too expensive for Gig Harbor?

Posted on March 13th, 2024 By: Edward Nadler

The City of Gig Harbor’s Resolution 1309 (adopting the Gig Harbor Sports Complex Phase 2 and 3 Feasibility Study) states that the need for athletic fields in the Gig Harbor area has been documented for many years, including in the City’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan. Yet, the PROS Plan states: “Residents generally feel the City has sufficient community events, sports fields and sports courts, developed parks with playgrounds, and picnic areas & shelters. However, many residents would like to see more walking and biking trails and waterfront access. When asked to rank their priorities for future City investment, residents prioritized maintaining existing parks, trails, and open spaces.”

While adopting the feasibility study does not commit the city to a specific time frame, perhaps now is the time to acknowledge this is a bridge too far. Where would the City of Gig Harbor obtain the funding for Phases 2 and 3? Directly or indirectly the city has already spent over $10 million on this project. The two additional phases will cost a minimum of $20.4 million!

It is worth noting that the estimated costs for Phases 2 & 3 do not include “soft costs” such as sales tax, permits, design fees, third-party testing, utility connection fees, administration costs, nor a change order construction contingency cost. These “soft costs” will eventually add several millions of dollars to the cost of this project. There is also a recommendation to add an additional 5%-6% as an annual construction cost escalator. That escalator alone will add a minimum of $1M per year. The cost of Phases 2 & 3 could possibly exceed $30 million! This is a far cry from the origins of this project which started with the donation of a parcel of land and $50,000 to build a city park.

The Resolution mentions the YMCA’s development of Phase 1A.  The YMCA was to be solely responsible for Phase 1A. The YMCA has not met its original contractual obligation to the city. The city has offered $2 million of HBZ funds to the YMCA. What other qualifying project might these funds have been used for to benefit the citizens of Gig Harbor? Is it feasible to expect the YMCA to live up to its new contractual obligations? Is there a new contract?

The city has exhausted its goodwill with the state. During the most recent legislative session the city asked the state for funds to cover the YMCA’s shortfall, the state replied that it will put no more money into this project. What other projects could have been funded by state grants had we determined the limit of funding available from the onset?

The resolution refers to the PROS Plan, let’s consider key findings of that effort:

  • 81% of residents asked for soft surface trails.
  • 76% of residents asked for additional paved, shared use trails.
  • 60% of residents asked for additional picnic areas and shelters.
  • 53% of residents asked for a splash pad or spray park.
  • 51% of residents asked for an off-leash dog area.
  • 27% of residents asked for more sports fields.

While local parks and recreation opportunities are important to the quality of life here in Gig Harbor, perhaps now is the time to admit this is too expensive an undertaking for the citizens of the City of Gig Harbor. Let’s consider other options, other regional partners, and other needs of the citizens of the city.

Edward Nadler

Gig Harbor

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