Hilliard broke ground Friday morning on an ambitious leisure campus that will replace an aging community center not far away, billed as one of the largest capital projects in Hilliard’s history.
The 10 a.m. event will celebrate the future of the Hilliard Recreation and Wellness Center at the Hilliard Soccer Center, west of Municipal Park on Scioto Darby Road. It will include speakers, “kick the football” and “touch the truck” activities.
Funded in part by a 0.5% income tax increase approved by voters in 2021 and debt financing, the 105,000-square-foot complex will include a gym, indoor track, fitness and weight rooms, aerobic dance and spin studios, classrooms, a 240-person community Event room, commercial kitchen, childcare area and outdoor terrace.
The aquatic facility will feature a 25m lap pool, recreational activity pool, water slides and spa.
In a nod to the area’s large Muslim population, one room will house an ablution station, which some religions use to wash their hands, face, arms and feet before prayers.
“We want to be responsive to the needs of the community,” Hilliard city manager Michelle Crandall told The Dispatch.
A year ago, the city voted to authorize the issuance of up to $95 million in bonds for the project. Proceeds from bond sales and taxes will pay for an estimated $110 million in the complex, which also includes several playing fields, some with artificial turf, on the south side of the facility.
As recently as late last year, there were concerns about cost overruns.
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“This is one of the largest and most impactful capital projects in Hilliard’s history,” Crandall said. “When residents voted for Phase 22 (increasing income tax to 2.5%), it was promised that one of the key benefits to the community would be a recreation center and more sports fields. Breaking ground on this development is a promise that is being made,” she says.
Like a modern public library, the new facility will be a meeting place for the community.
It will allow the city to expand its recreational programs and event space, said Ed Merritt, Hilliard’s director of recreation and parks.
In partnership with The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, nearly 25,000 square feet of space at the facility will be dedicated to an Integrative Medical Health and Wellness Center that will offer rehabilitation and physical therapy as well as behavioral health and sports medicine.
But a Hilliard councilman isn’t so sure that the OSU-connected center will benefit all residents.
Councilor Frank (Les) Carrier said residents whose insurance does not cover treatment or therapy may be excluded.
“You can go there and not be covered because your insurance is OhioHealth,” he said.
Carrier also questioned why an offer from the Central Ohio YMCA to operate the pool, gym and main facility was rejected.
“What confuses me is the original amount of money that it will save the city,” he said. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t do that.” He also thinks the facility could “cannibalize” the existing Hilliard/Ray Patch Family YMCA at 4515 Cosgray Road.
Crandall has said the city would prefer to have municipal control over its facilities, even though it might cost more.
Initial operating income, including membership fees and program fees, will cover approximately 80% of operating costs. Community and recreation centers generally do not make money. Subsidized by city funds, they are considered an amenity for residents rather than a source of profit.