Regional aquatic center discussions continue

Wenatchee Valley from above e-banner

October 4, 2022

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

A variety of local stakeholders, including city officials, chamber representatives, county commissioners, port commissioners, and others, met last month to consider whether our communities should join forces to construct and operate a regional aquatic facility. The Wenatchee City Pool, originally built in 1965, has served us well for several decades but is now in need of multimillion-dollar repairs just to keep operating. With this old facility in need of significant repairs – and considering how much our region has grown since the city of Wenatchee first constructed its pool – it seems prudent for local government partners to consider the best and most sustainable way to support our region for the next 50 years.  A new aquatic center could support our growing communities with access to an Olympic-sized pool, zero-entry pool for children, picnic shelters, and potentially a waterslide, splash pad, or lazy river. Discussion will also include whether other sports facilities, such as baseball diamonds, basketball courts, and soccer fields could also be included.

Indoor pool and diving pool

With the cold winters in our region and poor air quality in summers, some stakeholders have encouraged the idea of some elements of the aquatic center to be indoors, such as a 50-meter Olympic-sized pool. This pool could support year-round community lap swim, swim lessons, family swim, and senior water aerobics, and host several multi-day competitive swim meets throughout the year, bringing in hundreds of families and generating economic activity.

Is it time for a regional solution?

Many communities smaller than ours already have modern pool facilities and family aquatic centers. If partners in our two-county area could explore ways to construct a shared facility, the result could be much better, more cost effective, equitable in ownership, and financially sustainable. If a regional entity, such as a regional aquatic district or public facilities district, could construct and operate the new facility, no individual local government would need to take on the responsibility itself. Better yet, if local jurisdictions supported the idea of a regional district operating the facility, an aquatic center could be utilized by all community members in the region without concerns over jurisdictional boundaries.

Such an arrangement would be more sustainable because the facility would be supported by a broader tax base and be a more equitable arrangement as no one set of taxpayers would be financially responsible for a facility often utilized by residents outside of their city or county borders. I envision a facility that could be utilized by residents of all ages for such things as swim lessons, CPR classes, community lap swim, senior water aerobics, and family time. Local school districts and swimming organizations could also utilize the Olympic-sized pool for swim meets, drawing hundreds of children and their families to our area. An aquatic facility along with baseball and soccer fields – each capable of hosting a broad array of events and families – could be even better.

Oxford Aquatic Center

A new aquatic center – operated by a regional aquatic district or public facilities district – could support our growing communities with regional access to an Olympic-sized pool (indoor or outdoor), zero-entry family pool, picnic shelters, and plenty of parking. (Pictured above is the Oxford Aquatic Center in Oxford, Ohio.)

Sports complex in New England

Some stakeholders have suggested a broader range of sports facilities, in addition to a covered pool facility. A community “sports complex” could include baseball diamonds, sports courts, and soccer fields, each capable of supporting community recreation and attracting visitors for hosted events. (Pictured above is the New England Sports Park in Lebanon, New Hampshire.)

Significant economic potential

One potential location for an aquatic center or community sports complex would be within the “Wenatchi Landing” area – 283 acres of undeveloped land in Douglas County near the Odabashian Bridge. If 20 acres were designated for community aquatic and sporting facilities, these facilities would be easily accessible to the regional population. If constructed, the remaining 263 acres could soon attract hotels, restaurants, and retail shops. Given the unique circumstances in our area with this uniquely situated, undeveloped land and the growing needs and populations of our communities, now seems like the time to explore ways to be collaborative to maximize benefits for both community use and economic activity.

Wenatchi Landing Site Map (concept only)

The Wenatchi Landing area in Douglas County near the Odabashian Bridge could provide 283 acres of economic opportunities, benefiting both Chelan and Douglas counties. An aquatic center and public sports facilities with plenty of parking would comprise approximately 20 acres but serve as key first facilities that could later attract hotels, restaurants, and retail shops. For more information on Wenatchi Landing, click here.

Frequently asked questions

I am grateful to so many local officials and community members who have participated in discussing possibilities for regional facilities, such as an aquatic center and sports complex.

Below are responses to some questions my office has received about the regional aquatic center along with a couple helpful links.

  • KPQ Radio interview explaining the concept - here
  • Recent PowerPoint providing overview - here 

Which local governments are currently supporting the project?

Local officials and stakeholders have only begun discussing this idea as a group since September 15. Further discussions are planned in October and November. A stakeholder working group could be formed for continued review and analysis throughout the winter and spring. Since the concept is just in its early stages of discussion, with much due diligence still needed, I don’t believe any local governments have taken official positions to either support or oppose the idea. In fact, the project itself (what type of aquatic facilities, sport courts, and ballfields, etc.) would still need to be determined.

Where would the money come from to fund the facilities?

Washington state law allows for local governments to partner with each other to form public facilities districts. I am also considering seeking new legislative authority to allow local governments to partner together to form regional aquatic districts. The basis of both ideas authorizes local governments (cities and counties) to join together as one district to seek a modest voter-approved sales tax increase of either one-tenth of 1% (0.1%) or two-tenths of 1% (0.2%). Local stakeholders are not considering a property tax vote to fund any facilities. The sales tax, since our communities receive many visitors each year who can help us pay for the facility, is the preferred voter-approved tax method. The annual sales tax revenue would be used to issue bonds to construct and operate the facilities.

Who determines the type of facilities to be included?

If the local cities and counties come together to form either a public facilities district or a regional aquatics district, the district board would determine the size and scope of the project. Ideally, the district boundaries would include both Chelan and Douglas counties and their included cities. A five-member board could be comprised of one member from each county along with board members from Wenatchee, East Wenatchee, and a smaller city. The board would then finalize the proposed facilities and seek voter approval. So ultimately, the voters of the district would have the final say in determining any facilities.

Is the Wenatchi Landing area the only location?

The Wenatchi Landing area is the ideal location for a modern “centerpiece” facility as it is regionally located and has plenty of land available for development. The aquatic center and other public facilities, if located there, could also lead to significant economic development, which would help everyone in the region. However, it wouldn’t need to be the only location of facilities owned and operated by the regional district. The district board could decide to build, acquire, and operate “satellite” facilities in nearby communities, much like our regional library district. This could include smaller pools in other communities.

What about the current Wenatchee pool and other community pools?

Forming a regional aquatic center or public facilities district does not in any way preclude cities from maintaining and operating their own pools. Doing so is a function and decision of the local governments themselves, whether that is the city of Wenatchee, Cashmere, Leavenworth, etc. The hope is for this regional facility to provide an additional option for children, families, and seniors. However, with the aging Wenatchee City Pool – built in 1965 – in need of multi-million-dollar repairs just to keep the pool itself operating, city leaders likely have a big decision to make about the long-term feasibility of their pool.

Is the YMCA planning a pool facility?

Yes, my understanding is the YMCA is planning and hoping to construct aquatic facilities in their proposed 5th Street location at the current Chelan PUD site. This includes a swimming pool, children’s pool, and splash zone, among other features. I am a big supporter of the YMCA, and I would be thrilled to see its proposed new building come to fruition. However, it is important to differentiate member-based facilities from public facilities and to consider the size of facilities along with the significant needs within our two-county region, especially if the Wenatchee City Pool closes. I want all member-based facilities (YMCA, WRAC, Worx, Planet Fitness and others) to be successful, but public facilities that drive regional economic benefits are important and quite different than member facilities. 

Who would be allowed to access the facilities?

Use of the facilities would be determined by the board members, appointed by their respective areas. My hope is for the two counties and their cities to join forces on these regional facilities so that costs are shared and taxpayer investments are maximized for efficiency. Furthermore, with a sustainable revenue stream, any facilities district could be free from the sometimes-costly administrative and accounting burden of collecting small, per-person user fees. With multiple jurisdictions participating, the facility could be utilized by all community members in the region without concerns over jurisdictional boundaries.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your state senator!



Brad Hawkins



State Senator Brad Hawkins
12th Legislative District


107 Newhouse Building - P.O. Box 40412 | Olympia, WA 98504-0412
(360) 786-7622 or Toll-free: (800) 562-6000