Our community currently lacks access to a formalized water safety program. Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1-5, and Idaho ranks 2nd in the country for the highest rate of these deaths. Learning to swim early on reduces this risk by 88%. From a wellness and health perspective; aquatic exercise and therapy is one of the best forms of exercise for flexibility, joint health, cardio and strength training and balance in a low-impact environment. The Center also has an opportunity to serve as a community anchor, with diverse program offerings; possible hot pools, dry-side exercise, yoga classes, childcare, indoor rec/basketball area; creating jobs and keeping this income resource in our community.
During 2018 and 2019 TVA and the City of Driggs partnered with VCBO Architecture, Ballard King Associations and Water Design to produce a facility feasibility study to inform the planning, design and construction of an aquatic center in Teton Valley. The study includes the project vision statement and priorities; a summary of the findings from an early community engagement survey; a series of phases to achieve the vision; construction estimates for each phase and geothermal considerations. A key outcome of the study was defining a financially achievable approach to obtaining an aquatic center that can grow with the Teton Valley, and adapt to the changing needs of the community. You can read the Feasibility Study here.
Site Selection: Current Stage!
We are currently in the phase of assessing various site options in Teton Valley. Our Project Team created a scoring matrix to effectively and efficiently score each location. The matrix consists of these 8 attributes: Access & Visibility, Size, Land Use & Site, Geothermal, Convenience, Infrastructure, Partnerships, and Availability/Price. We are now pursuing our top two locations and hope to have a site selected to share with our community by the end of 2020.
During this phase the team at TVA will lead a capital campaign to raise money from various resources including public, private and government entities, to pay for the building of the center.
The building phase consists of brick and mortar construction! Depending on financial resources we will determine which building phase to start with. Prior to construction, TVA along with the City of Driggs, will have a firm strategy for sustainable funding for continued facility operation in place.
Programming & Education
While The Center is being built the team at TVA will be working to create a diverse programming and educational portfolio that meets the needs of our various community members, focused on safety, health and wellness... and of course FUN!
The following information is not provided to change opinions but to bring the public up to date on the project and participants. The project is early in the design and organization phase so it is the perfect time to get involved and influence the outcome of the project.
- adequate land for this facility,
- good access for the community to use the network of trails and public transit,
- walking distance from schools and centrally located for community,
- great visibility for visitors to help increase facility revenue,
- offers compliant options for discharge of water to the landscape or into a network of ditches,
- is a cost effective option as the land will be donated to the City by the current land owner (developer)
- offers a great opportunity to partner with other nonprofit organizations who have a common goal of protecting the Teton Creek habitat and
- access from arterial and collector roads, with minimum traffic impact on neighborhoods.
In December 2019, the CoD and TVA received the completed Feasibility Study and cost estimate for a pool and recreation facility. During that study there were several opportunities for public input and comment. TVA will continue to seek public input as future phases are executed.
Initial results of the feasibility study for a pool and recreation facility came with an operating cost estimate that our community could not afford at this time. TVA and CoD requested that the design consultant develop a more affordable phased approach for both construction and operation of a pool and recreation facility. This change to a phased approach with a lower initial investment gave TVA, CoD, and the Teton Geothermal, LLC confidence for each to continue to participate in development of the project.
The feasibility study also evaluated the facility with and without the geothermal water use. If the geothermal source is found, it would greatly improve the facility revenue (to the point of generating a profit during phase 1) if year-round outdoor hot pools are built. The hot water could be used to reduce the energy cost of facility operation, including electrical generation from expected artesian flow.
Phasing of the facility allows the facility to grow as our community grows and additional resources become available. We anticipate the operating revenue to grow as the community grows and the facility attracts more users through successful marketing.
Economically, Phase 3 is a typical community rec center with a pool. The Geothermal case is based on operating data from Lava Hot Springs and it makes 342,000 $/yr. Our geothermal conceptual model is that aquifer recharge from snow melt high in the Tetons provides hydraulic heat to drive high rate artesian water flows while the Yellowstone hot spot provides the heat to generate hot water. The conceptual model was validated by an INL numerical model study. To access this energy, we have to drill and test an exploratory well at the rec center site. That is where Richard Weinbrandt’s training and 50+ years of experience in the oil business come in. The well will be drilled privately and donated to the City of Driggs. The donation will be valued at the reserves of the well, resulting in a significant tax deduction to the owners. We have historical flow data from a well drilled in 1974 about 5 miles northwest of Driggs plus the INL model results. These show that we should be able to generate 300 kw of hydroelectric energy from the pressure of the water flow. At .035 $/kwh selling to Fall River that is 92,172 $/yr. We will also use the geothermal heat for the facility and the pools, saving 139,500 $/yr in utilities. The result of a successful geothermal well is an addition of 574,000 $/yr to the rec center cash flow and reducing the negative cash flow to 62,000 $/yr which is much lower than the Driggs SPET tax flow. Additional revenue can be generated by downstream businesses using the effluent heat and water.
Teton Geothermal’s focus is on getting the well drilled as soon as possible and they have been working with a drilling company (Welsco) out of Fallon, NV who are experienced in drilling low temperature geothermal wells. At this time, they are on a project in New Mexico and should finish in mid-September and could move the rig straight to Driggs.
We are anxious to learn lessons from other facilities. Based on a conversation in January 2020, with Blackfoot Mayor Carroll, TVA learned that the primary reason for closure of the Blackfoot pool was cost (no surprise). The high investment required to keep the facility open was caused by many years of operation without a funded maintenance program and poor initial facility design choices. Specific items learned from the discussion with the Blackfoot Mayor regarding the nearly 50 year-old pool include:
- 25yd X 40yd lap pool generally 5+ft deep with a diving area and 3m & 10m diving boards. Depths below each board did not meet current requirements.
- This pool has an aluminum liner which was the subject of much weld repair due to corrosion. They eventually began installing membrane liners.
- Kiddy pool was considered to be too deep for kids two years and under; not a splash pool.
- Blackfoot never had a maintenance budget for the facility and things were fixed as they broke e.g. the facility's dehumidification system was retired in place when it stopped running.
- In order to continue to operate the pool, it became critical to fix failed systems. Bond requests and an attempt at a recreation district failed. The Teton Valley facility concepts differentiate from the Blackfoot pool in efficiency in systems and buildings, technology advances and differences in serviceable market, including higher income and more active population. We have carefully reviewed lessons learned from facilities in comparable communities that have either failed or been successful. Mission Valley, Montana and Mountain Home, Idaho are two similar communities with successful facilities or pathways to a successful facility. Planning for an adequate operating budget over the long term is critical to the success of this facility.
Identifying an achievable funding matrix is a key component of the business plan. What we expect to see out of the business plan, which will be a component of the next design step in 2021, is a diverse funding stream for resiliency of the financial model for both construction and operations of the facility. Funding can include local, state and federal funding, a robust capital campaign supported by individuals, businesses and foundations and creation of an endowment to support facility operations.
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. That said, it is TVA’s goal, in pursuing a diverse funding stream and developing an operations endowment, to minimize any proposed public investment and to strive for long-term sustainability.
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:
- Establishing a smart business plan that utilizes programming to inform final design and “right-sizing” the facility to fit the community.
- Pursuing a geothermal resource
- Leveraging private funding
- Leveraging existing municipal lodging and sales tax
Exploring the creation of a rec district or Recreation Taxing District to ultimately own and operate the facility will 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 Rec District would provide support to many other amenities beside an aquatic facility. Currently the City of Victor and the City of Driggs provide recreation facilities and amenities for all of Teton County unincorporated residents at no cost and are 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 by Teton County voters, the City would still contribute to support of recreation facilities through sales tax. Ultimately, the City and TVA would not want the taxing element of a Rec District to be overwhelming to residents.
Regarding maintenance of a clean and healthy facility, the construction and operation will be managed in compliance with Federal and State of Idaho Regulations, most notably Idaho Administrative Code Rule 16.02.14 - RULES GOVERNING CONSTRUCTION AND OPERATION OF PUBLIC SWIMMING POOLS IN IDAHO and requirements of the Idaho Department of Water Resources.
COVID-type considerations will be considered in design, but the Phase 1 outdoor pools are attractive in this regard, to minimize the potential for airborne virus spread.