ST. JOSEPH - St. Joseph is taking the next step towards a proposed $6.1 million outdoor aquatic center project.

A study on the aquatic center was presented to the city council on Monday night. The proposed project includes a lazy river, lap pool, splash pool, zero depth entry pool, climbing wall and a zip line. The study recommended building the aquatic center on a site to the northwest of the intersecton of County Road 133 and Elm Street East.

The council voted 3-2 to move ahead and get design documents, which will cost $71,000. Mayor Rick Schultz says the city will also hold open meetings for future community feedback.

The Proposed Aquatic Center Location (City of St. Joseph)

St. Joseph has been working with USAquatics to plan the facility. The project would be paid for through a local sales tax extension that was approved last November and fundraising.

The study included feedback from hundreds of residents. Of the 823 residents who responded to a survey, 70 percent say building a water amenity should be a very high (16 percent), high (25 percent), or medium (29 percent) priority. Of those who responded, 52 percent say they would visit a local water facility daily, once per week, or several times a week.

The aquatic center would likely cost just over $253,000 to operate per year. However, the facility is projected to gather just over $285,000 per year, Creating a $32,000 operating surplus. The center would generate revenue through admission, swim lessons, concessions and rentals. The study recommended the center charge $6 per person for admission.

During the community feedback portion of the meeting a couple citizens voiced concerns with the project. Former St. Joseph City Council member Stephen Frank says the project is too much and will take away city sales taxes that could be used on city maintenance and road repairs.

“I’m puzzled how we [originally] went from a modest splash pad idea to a $6.1 million facility,” Frank says.

Concerns were also brought up about the possibility of weather closing down or being unreliable for an outdoor water center. Council members Bob Loso and Renee Symanietz voted against the motion to get the design documents.

If money is raised to start the project, construction could start in mid-August with the Center opening in early June of 2016.