Aquatics Feasibility Study

Built in 1970, the existing Bellevue Aquatic Center has served Bellevue’s 140,000 residents for nearly 50 years.  Its age and capacity are inadequate to meet the current and future demand for aquatic programing in Bellevue.  The City is exploring alternatives and partnerships to develop a new, year-round aquatic facility that considers the full range of activity and demographic market segments associated with contemporary, state-of-the-art aquatic facilities. 

In 2006, the City was approached by a local non-profit organization whose mission was to advocate for the development of aquatic facilities to meet the needs of the region.  In response, the City completed a comprehensive feasibility study for a new aquatic facility.  That study (2009 Bellevue Aquatic Center Final Feasibility Study - see accordion below) explored a range of facility options with estimated financial performance; analyzed the current aquatic market; conducted a preliminary site analysis; and explored a range of financing options.  A public outreach effort included stakeholder meetings, focus groups and a public interest survey. 

The study was presented to Council in March 2009.  Council expressed support for a high profile, comprehensive aquatic facility and directed staff to explore regional partnerships with adjacent cities, school districts and King County.  Staff reported back to Council in early 2010 that, after a thorough review, these potential partners were not prepared to pursue a project at that time.  Because of the general lack of partner interest coupled with the severe impacts of the recession, Bellevue ceased further exploration of aquatics alternatives. 

Since that time, several area aquatic facilities have opened, though none serve Bellevue residents or the Eastside.  The adjacent cities of Redmond and Kirkland have independently explored aquatics alternatives.  The City of Redmond recently completed a comprehensive public recreation facilities study, and a City of Kirkland aquatic center ballot measure failed in 2015.

In 2017, the Council directed the staff to continue evaluating aquatic center options for Bellevue, including public/private partnerships and potential locations.  Potential partners have emerged, including the Bellevue School District; additional discussion continues with local health care providers and corporate sponsors.  Bellevue, along with other Eastside cities, is also participating in an ongoing process initiated by King County to explore the viability of a regional approach to fill the aquatic facility needs on the Eastside. 

In March of 2018, the Council approved funding to complete a comprehensive update of the 2009 Feasibility Study, and to reflect a contemporary version of Option D.  This investment is intended to develop more precise information needed to assist Council in determining whether, and under what circumstances, to proceed with an Aquatic Center.

In 2007, the City Council commissioned an aquatics feasibility study, after a group of area swimmers asked the city to consider building a multi-purpose aquatic complex that could accommodate a wide range of aquatic needs, including competitive swimming events. Download the 2009 Aquatics Feasibility Study.

After looking at the preliminary feasibility study in March 2009, the council asked staff to find potential partners, including other cities, to help fund the considerable construction and maintenance costs that would be involved.

The Bellevue Aquatic Center near Odle Middle School meets the needs of lap swimmers and children taking lessons. It also provides a warm water therapy pool, but the current facility does not meet length or depth requirements for more serious competitive swimming.

The study confirms great demand for new or expanded swimming facilities throughout the region. However, swimming pools are very expensive to build and maintain. According to the study, the more expensive the facility, the less fees cover the cost of maintenance.

The study was conducted to assist the council in identifying current needs and deciding if, or to what extent, it supports the development of an aquatic center.

The 2009 Feasibility Study:

  1. Explored a range of facility options with estimated financial performance;
  2. Analyzed the current aquatic market;
  3. Conducted some preliminary site analysis; and
  4. Explored a range of potential financing options.

Five kinds of swimming facilities were contemplated, from a locally-focused $19 million outdoor leisure pool to an $80 million national indoor natatorium with an Olympic-sized pool and a diving well.

As part of the study, the city conducted extensive public outreach. Staff met with nearby cities, school districts, Bellevue Community College and King County, as well as the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and the Bellevue Downtown Association. There were focus group meetings with aquatics interest groups and a public interest survey of Bellevue residents.

Significant findings included:

  • All groups and organizations identified the need for additional aquatics facilities to serve the Eastside;
  • The local competitive swimming community is very active, with 4,277 families being members of private outdoor pools in Bellevue, and 3,640 swimmers participating in 26 Eastside swim clubs;
  • Most aquatic facilities are 30 to 40 years old and in need of significant renovation or replacement within the next five to ten years. Some local facilities have already closed or may close in the near future;
  • Most area high schools, including all Bellevue schools, do not have their own pools, and rely on other aquatic facilities to serve their competitive swim programs; and
  • Growth in many local aquatics organizations/programs is constrained due to a lack of pool time and space.

The public interest survey indicated that nearly half of Bellevue households use swimming facilities and/or programs, with the most popular swimming types being recreational swimming, fitness/lap swimming and swim lessons.

The council reviewed each of the options and asked for more information about facilities that could accommodate local and regional competitions. The council directed staff to return at a later date to further define program needs, site considerations and potential city involvement in this major undertaking, and to seek alternative funding sources, including both capital and operating partners.

At the City Council’s March 23, 2009 Study Session briefing, the Council asked staff to further define program needs, site considerations and alternative funding sources, including capital and operating partners for a regional aquatics center. 

There was general support for a major aquatic facility to meet the recreational and competitive swimming needs, though there was concern about building and operating costs. The staff has met with SPLASH and several nearby cities and determined that there is a sufficient level of interest to continue evaluating the idea of a multi-city partnership to address regional aquatic needs. 

2009 Bellevue Aquatic Center Feasibility Study 

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