Indoor recreation center

A rendering of the proposed indoor recreation center at night, designed by Shive-Hattery. Representatives of Shive-Hattery presented a more finalized version of their concept plan for the indoor recreation center to Pella City Council at their policy and planning meeting March 7. 

PELLA — City officials have disclosed financial updates for Pella’s multi-million dollar long-term facilities plan, including new cost estimates and a concept design for the proposed indoor recreation center.

At a policy and planning meeting Tuesday, City Administrator Mike Nardini provided financial updates to Pella City Council for its long-term facilities plan, which includes an increase between $8-13 million to the plan’s overall cost.

In April 2022, Pella City Council approved a $45 million long-term facilities plan to build a new indoor recreation center ($31 million) and renovate the existing Pella Community Center ($5.5 million), in addition to infrastructure ($6 million) and contingency funds ($2.5 million) for both projects.

The total cost of the long-term facilities plan is now estimated between $53-58.6 million, which includes an estimated $37-43 million for the indoor rec center, $5.5 million for the Pella Community Center, $7.6 million for infrastructure costs and $2.5 million in contingency funds, Nardini said.

The original plan included $22 million in city funds and raising $23 million from both public and private sources. Of the $22 million in city funds, $5 million would come from surplus cash on hand, and $17 million would be funded by issuing a local option sales and services tax bond, or LOSST.

The city estimates it will still have $5 million in surplus cash on hand to fund the plan, Nardini said. Specifically, he recommended council use the surplus cash to fund engineering costs, which include an estimated $2.75 million for the indoor rec center, $650,900 for indoor rec center alternates and supplemental fees, $759,000 to extend University Street, $118,00 for sanitary sewer, $412,500 for the Pella Community Center and $309,600 in contingency funds.

“The reason why we have a cost increase on the infrastructure was by and large attributed to the sanitary sewer needs, or requirements for the indoor recreation center,” Nardini said.

To date, about $13.1 million in private funds have been pledged to the long-term facilities plan, Nardini said. Mayor Don DeWaard has also formed a committee to raise additional funds for the indoor rec center.

The goal of the long-term facilities plan is to improve quality of life in the community, attract citizens and increase the city’s tax base. Nardini also said the indoor rec center would be a “recruitment and retention tool” for Pella businesses.

“I think it's a very good example [indoor rec center] when we talk about preferred growth areas and investments in the community, specifically in light of these three goals we have here and what we are trying to accomplish,” Nardini said. “Oftentimes, communities consider recreation centers because they do have additional benefits outside of recreational use for communities. Oftentimes, they are used for additional development.”

To date, between $18-23.5 million in funding is still needed for the long-term facilities plan. In addition to private funding, the city has asked for $5 million from the Pella Community School District for the indoor rec center, and plans to request funds from the Marion County Board of Supervisors and the state.

Council member Lynn Branderhorst said using the city’s $5 million in surplus cash to fund the indoor rec center is “risky,” citing what she considers inadequate private funding and multiple tax bills under consideration in the Iowa Legislature that could decrease the city’s revenue into the future.

“We have so many moving parts right here, including but not limited to, we just don’t have enough money for this project yet,” she said. “I’m of the mindset that we need to save … Of that $5 million we have a lot of projects that are already needing improvement in our community, so I find that risky to designate $5 million of the taxpayer’s money to a project that has too many moving parts.

“Oh, and then I’ll add this: It’s an election year. So … you could conceivably have a mayor and council that don’t support this project. We dedicate $5 million to it, we don’t get that back. And guess what the citizens get for that? Nothing.”

She also said she was not comfortable moving forward with the project because it feels “rushed” and has not been formally voted on by Pella citizens.

Council members Mark Dejong, Spencer Carlstone and Calvin Bandstra, along with Mayor Don DeWaard, voiced their support of allocating the $5 million toward the indoor rec center.

“There’s tremendous support for this project in the community,” DeWaard said. “If you’re not impressed with $13 million from private businesses and individuals so far … That is an indication of solid support from this community for this project. We as leaders, it’s our responsibility to move it forward, because that’s what the community wants.”

As of Tuesday, the indoor rec center will be 78,000 square feet and include four full-sized gyms, an indoor walking track, workout areas, a competition swimming pool, recreation swimming pool, large atrium areas for meeting spaces, childcare facilities and concessions, and a rock climbing wall. The current estimated cost of the project is $43.1 million, with a tentative completion date slated for 2025.

No action was taken regarding these items. Council is expected to formally vote for the indoor rec center’s engineering services, in addition to engineering contracts to extend University Street and Baseline Drive, at an upcoming meeting.

Emily Hawk is the associate editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. She can be reached at

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