A consultant is recommending the city of Bettendorf build a new fitness and community center and an outdoor aquatics center to replace the aging facilities it operates.

The fitness and community center would be built in Middle Park where the Splash Landing Aquatics Center is now, while the aquatics center would be down the hill to the southwest, with a parking lot in between. The aquatics center would be about 130 percent larger than Splash Landing.

Together, the two buildings would cost $37 million to $39 million, Lindsey Peckinpaugh, of the Chicago architectural and design firm Perkins + Will, explained in a presentation Thursday afternoon at the Quad-Cities Waterfront Convention Center. A duplicative presentation was held Thursday evening.

Perkins + Will was hired by the city's park board in March to assess the city's three existing recreation and community centers and to provide direction as to whether the city should continue to maintain and invest in those buildings, or whether it would be feasible as well as more cost-effective and beneficial in the long run to build new.

The three existing buildings are the Life Fitness Center, 2222 Middle Road, Splash Landing, 2220 23rd St., and the Herbert Goettsch Community Center, 2204 Grant St. All are at least 50 years old and need major upgrades, City Administrator Decker Ploehn has said.

One feature many residents wanted is a lap pool, such as is available in the Life Fitness Center, but that is not included in the consultant's recommendation except as a possible addition in the future to the fitness/community center.

The consultant's recommendation is to sell the Life Fitness Center, which it describes as a "sub-optimal space," allowing a business to continue offering tennis, which isn't widely available elsewhere in the Quad-Cities.

The existing lap pool might be leased by the park board, the consultant said.

The recommendation for the Goettsch Community Center is to demolish it because renovation isn't considered cost-effective, and to move the activities that occur there to the center in Middle Park, Peckinpaugh said.

Consolidating the functions of the Life Fitness Center and the Goettsch Center into one building would save money on staff and energy costs, Peckinpaugh said. A new building is expected to boost attendance by 50 to 60 percent, which would increase revenue, she said.

At present, the city pays about $495,000 to keep the Life Fitness Center operating; this would fall to $30,000 in the new building, Peckinpaugh said.

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It is not the city's goal to make park operations pay for themselves with no subsidy, as recreational amenities are considered one of the services of the city, such as police and fire protection, City Administrator Decker Ploehn has explained. But the city tries to operate as efficiently as possible, he added.

After Peckinpaugh's short presentation, the afternoon crowd — most in the 50-plus age range — broke into small groups to talk about individual concerns.

These include how the project would affect property taxes, the lack of a lap pool in the new center, and what would happen to the 100-plus families per month who come to the food pantry at the Goettsch Center, located down the hill on Grant Street.

Many of them walk, and a Middle Park location would be a hardship, said Barb Emerson, who has worked at the pantry affiliated with Churches United for 13 years.

Other comments:

• Chuck Cline is concerned about cost. "This is a heck of a lot of money," he said. "We've had 10 years of prosperity. But if we had a downfall, people would move out, jobs would disappear, businesses would close and those of us still here would be holding the bag. We retirees can't do that."

• Blake Hickey, 11, plays tennis and is disappointed tennis courts are not in the plans.

• Katie McDermott thinks the plans are "awesome." Asked for specifics, she said, "All of it."

"We need a new pool and places for kids to go," she said. "It's definitely good for the city."

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