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Click here to view the full study

Phasing the facility results in a lower initial construction and operating cost.  Addition of subsequent phase allows the facility to grow as our community grows and  resources become available. (Note:The total project construction cost of the facility completed in phases is higher than if in the entire facility was built as one project. )

  1. BUSINESS PLAN (6-9 months)
  • Program & Operations Review and Refinement
    • Improve the Business Model (and confirm or refine facility concept)
    • Establish Candidate Locations
  • Financial & Organizational Plan
    • Construction & Operations Funding and Structure
  • Geothermal Evaluation
    • INL Report
    • Test well
  1. SECURE SITE (3 months)
  2. FUNDING – Implement Financial Plan (1-3 years)
  3. DESIGN (concurrently with funding)
  4. CONSTRUCTION (18 months)
  6. FUTURE PHASES – As funding and demand warrant

The next steps will answer this question by identifying and analyzing the various public and private funding options for both construction and operating costs. The goal is to avoid or minimize any property tax increase needed to fund construction or operation by:

  1. Establishing a smart business plan that utilizes programming to inform final design and “right-sizing” the facility to fit the community.
  2. Pursuing a geothermal resource
  3. Leveraging private funding
  4. Leveraging existing municipal lodging and sales tax

The project team has identified important criteria for a facility site and will work with the business plan consultant to analyze candidate sites and rank these against the defined criteria. Final site selection will also be dependent on the site’s availability and purchase cost. The site selection criteria include:

  • Size: Ideally at least 5 acres
  • Access from a major road (arterial or major collector)
  • Convenience for the community, and in particular for school-age population
  • Existing or available supporting infrastructure
  • Compatible with surrounding land uses
  • Geothermal considerations – including likelihood of geothermal resources being present and also options for use of water after use by the facility

As noted above, the cities coordinate on long range recreation planning. The aquatic/indoor recreation center is a facility the City of Driggs has taken the lead on, but the City of Driggs will coordinate planning with and receive input from the other two cities at staff and elected levels so that needs, concerns and ideas can be addressed.

The county and the three cities coordinate on parks and recreation long range planning (see 2013 Teton County Recreation and Public Access Master Plan), which was the origin of the aquatic center project. At this time, the county has not indicated an interest in developing this type of recreation facility. The only identified roll for Teton County at this time would be if a recreation district were created by voters, then the county commissioners would be responsible for appointing the first district commissioners. The business and financial planning steps will inform the question of whether a recreation district should be considered.

Exploring the creation of a Recreation District will also be a key component of the business plan. A Recreation District (Idaho Statutes Title 31 Chapter 43) exists to provide adequate recreation facilities for public use for public benefit, use and purpose which enhances the value and quality of life.  A Recreation District would provide support to many other amenities besides an aquatic facility and the infrastructure for a construction bond, if needed. Currently the City of Victor and the City of Driggs provide recreation facilities and amenities for all of Teton County unincorporated residents without any tax offset  and is reaching capacity for county-wide demand and use. A county-wide Recreation District would equitably support these services. Additionally, if a Recreation District was to be created, the City would still contribute to the support of recreation facilities through sales tax.

Providing recreation and cultural facilities is a core service for any municipality. Under Idaho statutes, this power is authorized by section 50-303:  Recreation and culture – Cities are hereby empowered to create, purchase, operate and maintain recreation and cultural facilities and activities within or without the city limits and regulate the same, and to levy a special tax not to exceed six hundredths percent (.06%) of the market value for assessment purposes on all taxable property within the limits of the city for recreational programs. The City of Driggs, like virtually all other municipalities, owns and operates recreation and cultural facilities. An aquatic center is a public and community amenity that will serve a broad cross-section of the community. An aquatic center is an appropriate project for public funds. At this time, it does not levy a special property tax for recreation and cultural facilities.

In early 2017, several of TVA’s founding board members had conversations with potential donors who indicated interest in donating several million dollars to build the Aquatics Center. These donations did not happen so a public/private funding model was proposed. Additionally, potential major donors have indicated the importance of matching public support to their donations.

Identifying  the funding approach is a key component of the business plan that is proposed as a next step. A diverse funding stream for resiliency of the financial model for both construction and operations of the facility is an expectation of the business plan.  Funding sources may include local, state and federal sources, a capital campaign supported by individuals, businesses and foundations, and creation of an endowment to support facility operations.

The Project Team and our consultants have carefully reviewed business plans and lessons learned from facilities in comparable communities.  The Teton Valley facility will have greater efficiency in systems and buildings, and improved technology. There are also differences in the serviceable markets, including higher income and a more active population.

There are other existing and emerging providers in the region , including Astoria Hot Springs (public-private) and Teton County/Jackson Parks and Recreation center (public), Green Canyon Hot Springs, Heise Hot Springs, Teton Springs, Tributary and Grand Targhee. Lava Hot Springs is a State Park, east of Pocatello, that generates a positive income stream for the State of Idaho. This public data set has been used to develop the capital costs, revenue and operating costs for the geothermal case. In all cases, these competing aquatic facilities require significant commutes of one to three hours.

The project team continues to investigate and evaluate the potential for use of geothermal resources, including technical assistance from the Idaho National Laboratory.  The decision to ultimately use the geothermal resource will depend on its availability and revenue benefit to the project. To confirm geothermal resource availability, a test well will need to be drilled at the selected site. The results may dramatically affect facility plans and cost.

Driggs is the Teton County seat and is a central location in the valley. Driggs is home to Teton School District #401 elementary schools,  middle school and high school, key users of such a facility.

Driggs is about 8 miles closer than Victor to the tested geothermal resource, the Hanson well. It might be possible to locate the facility closer to that well but this would come at the expense of public access.

Driggs City government has been consistently supportive of an aquatic center initiative.

With a location in or near Driggs, there would be access to Driggs City utilities to support center operations and lower the construction cost.

Our contractor, VCBO initially came up with designs that were deemed too expensive for Teton Valley, but were responsive to the input from the public survey. The primary cause for delay was based on the Project Team’s response to early designs. The Project Team requested  a phased approach to the construction , starting with an outdoor, seasonal pool. The Project Team, City, TVA and VCBO completed several iterations of the project design.

The City of Driggs (City) and Teton Valley Aquatics (TVA) collaborated on this project, each contributing $15,000 towards the study. The City of Driggs led the request for qualifications process in Fall 2017. A Project Team of City of Driggs staff, Parks and Recreation Committee members and TVA board members was formed. Firms were evaluated and interviewed. VCBO Architecture was selected as the consultant in December 2017. The study began in March 2018 and concluded in November 2019.

The goal of the aquatic center feasibility study was  to develop a conceptual design, operating costs/revenue and construction costs for a Teton Valley aquatic center. The study  serves as a vehicle to determine the feasibility of such a facility and to obtain community input and feedback on the need and the concept. It will also serve as a blueprint for the path forward (business plan).

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