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Austin close to sealing $35 million rec center deal

An artist's rendering of the proposed Austin Recreation Center.

AUSTIN — Austin is one step closer to getting a new recreation center.

On a 5-2 vote, the Austin City Council tentatively approved proposed lease and purchase agreements for a $35 million recreation center project during Monday's session. A final vote on the project is expected during the regular council session on June 6.

The new center, a joint project with the YMCA, would be built on the site of the former Austin Municipal Plant.

Officials described the new recreation center as a "positive direction," citing potential economic and population growth for the city.

"I think we came to a very good conclusion," Councilman David Hagen told the gallery. "I want to vote on this (agreement) as soon as possible."


"This is going to draw more folks to our city," said Councilman Steve King. "It takes money to make money. … more people will be moving into Austin."

Several components of the lease agreement included conditions regarding public access to the YMCA to ensure that the community at large can still have access to the center, the use of the Community Center space for events such as the yearly Austin Arts Festival, and rate of daily passes.

What city and Vision 2020 officials envisioned would be a place where both Austin and the YMCA would jointly operate the recreation center. The plans appear to have part of the facilities accessible only to members of the YMCA, while other spaces would be accessible to the public.

Such features include an indoor playground, an aquatic center, community spaces, workout rooms, a running track to name a few.

The YMCA was concerned over a potential decrease in membership revenue, while city officials worried about maintaining the "Community Center" and making sure that it was still accessible by all residents.

There has been opposition to the project by some Austin residents concerned about destroying the historic Austin Municipal Plant site, which would become the future home of the new YMCA center if approved.

Many rallied to have the power plant rehabilitated to preserve its historic character and turned into high-end apartments or a restaurant and brewery. Many also considered saving portions of the plant to incorporate into the new recreation center.

In March, Austin Utilities approved a conditional purchase agreement of approximately $2 million that would allow the city to demolish parts of the project site, relocate everything that is currently inside the plant, and the site would undergo an environmental mitigation, according to other news reports.


Overall, Mayor Tom Stiehm praised the efforts of Vision 2020, city officials, and the YMCA for working through negotiations as well as coming up with solutions that are considered the most equitable for all parties involved in the process.

"This is a fantastic agreement," Stiehm said. "I think it'll draw people to Austin. It's a flagship project...It's full speed ahead."

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