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Kyle pushes rec center forward, back

A map showing the proposed site of a City of Kyle recreational center, which would be located in the developing Kyle Vista Park.

Executive Editor

KYLE – While Kyle officials still plan to move forward with a 70,000-square-foot recreation center, they have placed the project on a slightly slower track.

In the last month, the city has scrapped plans to ask voters for $20-30 million in bonding authority for the center in November 2009, opting to move the election back to May 2010.

The economy is only partly in view as city officials struggle to provide amenities for their growing town while the housing market lags and employment statistics continue to flash bad news. Other pragmatic considerations have compelled city officials to push the project back.

Kyle Parks and Recreation Director Kerry Urbanowicz said the Hays CISD wants to participate in the project so it will include an eight-lane competition swimming pool. Urbanowicz said the school district wouldn’t have enough time to participate if the election were to be held in November.

An even greater motive, Urbanowicz said, is voter turnout. A November 2009 election isn’t likely to draw many voters, since the election would only include constitutional amendments approved by the state legislature, along with the bond issue for the rec center. However, Urbanowicz said, May 2010 will include more elections of specific local interest, including city council and Hays CISD school board races, so that turnout would offer a truer indication of citizen sentiment.

The city council approved an amendment to agreements with Spawglas Architecture of Austin and Marmon Mok Architecture of San Antonio earlier this month to incorporate the new swimming pool requirements and prepare a specific bond proposal in time for a May 2010 election. But the discussion at city council earlier this month illustrated that worries about the economy are tangling with the city’s desire to build the rec center.

“We’re getting to the point in this project where we’re making serious steps and we want everyone to be comfortable,” City Manager Tom Mattis said.

Councilmember Lucy Johnson noted that the city might want to exercise additional caution. Leading to the vote to amend the contracts, which would take the city through Phases III and IV of the project, Johnson suggested that the city might want to stop at Phase III. However, Urbanowicz said the two phases work together, adding that it was necessary to run them together in order to make the election deadline.

Other voices on the council agreed with Urbanowicz, saying the city should continue the momentum so as to not “lose continuity” on the project, as Councilmember David Wilson put it.

“I recognize a desire that this is where we want to go,” Councilmember Michelle Lopez said.

Said Urbanowicz, “Right now, the citizens are saying to keep moving forward … We’ve got mechanisms in (the contracts) to stop it, slow it down, whatever we need to do with it … I’m getting plenty of positive feedback at every public gathering I go to.”

The council voted unanimously for the contract amendments.

Phase III will complete the schematic and elevation drawings, along with the financial pro forma for the rec center. Phase IV will complete 50 percent of the construction documents, the operations plan and the design specifics. The work will cost $1 million, which will come out of the city’s surplus before it is replaced by money from a successful bond issue, as planned.

The rec center would be located on the city’s 43-acre Kyle Vista Park, a facility under development just to the northeast of the intersection between Kyle Parkway and Interstate-35.

The demand for recreational facilities continues to grow in Kyle. Urbanowicz reported that the city’s parks and recreation department completed a banner year in 2008, with 33,909 admissions to the municipal swimming pool, 68,000 people attending special events, more than 41,000 participating in the city’s recreational programs and about 25,500 people renting facilities.

In a city populated by about 27,000 people, those numbers indicate that the parks and recreation department touched everyone in town nearly six ways.

“That’s why we keep asking for more staff,” Urbanowicz said.

It’s also why he keeps asking for that rec center, even when the economy answers back.