Bryan Hughes

Bryan Hughes, Avondale’s director of parks and recreation since May 2020, said the city can expect the aquatic center to open in spring 2023. Hughes has more than 20 years’ experience in parks and recreation management. He previously served as community service director for the town of Florence and prior to that was recreation supervisor for Fountain Hills. 

Avondale City Council approved funding for a new aquatic center during a meeting on July 5.

 The proposed aquatic center stemmed from a citizen survey included in the 2017 Parks, Recreation, Libraries and Trails Master Plan. Respondents were asked for the three future project improvements that were most important. One of the top responses was to develop a new outdoor aquatic center.

“When they did the Parks, Recreation, Libraries and Trails Master Plan back in 2017, an outdoor aquatic center was on the minds of our citizens,” said Bryan Hughes, the city’s director of parks and recreation. 

“We try to use those plans to kind of guide what we do. So, this was an opportunity. But I think an aquatic center was a priority for this council, and they wanted to see it happen.”

The development of the proposed aquatic center will take place in the Avondale Civic Center Complex. The facility will include, according to the city council report, the design and development of a complex with a competition pool with diving boards; play pool; bath house with locker rooms and multi-purpose rooms; and recreational features such as water slides, aquatic play units, lazy river or other features as determined through public outreach.

Following the opening of the recreation campus in Goodyear, Hughes said the new aquatic center will draw similar attention and buzz. 

“I think having something in your own city is something to be excited about, something to be proud of, and I think we’ll get a good response once it’s built,” he said.

According to the report, the aquatic center will “bring the benefit of a much-needed recreational facility to the residents of Avondale.” 

Once open, the facility will provide swim lessons to youth and adults, open swim time, recreational and competitive swim teams, potential partnerships with health care providers for therapeutic recreation, partnerships with local schools for interscholastic swim teams and physical education, as well as partnerships with local community colleges for swim and diving teams. 

The Avondale Civic Center has been identified as the preferred location for the proposed aquatic center.

According to the council report, to create synergy between the existing Civic Center facilities and the proposed aquatic center, staff is planning to move forward with the design of the Civic Center Park on the vacant parcel adjacent to the Civic Center Library. 

The design and development of the parcel as a park would help complete the Civic Center as a recreation and cultural destination for Avondale residents and visitors, according to the plan.

The aquatic center facility would also provide the opportunity to host swim meets, increasing tourism to the city and the hospitality industry. 

The project is estimated to be developed in two phases: design and development. The design phase, including public input, will last approximately six to nine months beginning in September, according to the report.

A construction manager at risk will be brought on board by 30% of design, and preconstruction will take place concurrently through the remainder of design. 

The construction of the aquatic center is estimated to take approximately 12 to 15 months. The set target date for opening to the public is spring 2023. 

The facility is anticipated to cost $16 million for construction and up to $1.1 million for annual operating costs, depending on the duration of the operating season. 

The Avondale Aquatic Center was not included in the FY 2020 budget. However, funding of $6 million in FY 2022 and $10 million in FY 2023 for development of the proposed Avondale Aquatic Center will come from a combination of general fund cash revenues and excise tax bonds. 

“Obviously when you have a project of this magnitude it’s going to take a couple of years and a couple of budget cycles for it to be built, and so our finance team was able to find $6 million to start with, to get this going,” Hughes said. “Then using some general fund cash reserves, and then we’ll also use some excise tax bonds to fund the remaining of it when we get into the next fiscal year. Basically, we’ve identified some savings. And that’ll help get this started. We’ll bring it to completion in the next fiscal year’s budget.”

The bond issuance will be presented to the city council for approval on a future date. 

The aquatic center’s action plan noted one goal, stating that the facility will “make Avondale a destination for events, activities and tournaments to promote economic development.”

Hughes said this facility will meet the recommendations made by residents based on the results of the citizen survey and provide an additional amenity to a city that’s continuing to grow. 

“It brings a recreational amenity that we don’t currently have. And with that comes a lot of cool programs. You have learn-to-swim programs, swim teams. It could also be a destination for swim meets, competing against other cities and towns that have recreational swim teams,” Hughes said. “It just in general brings something to the city that we don’t currently have.”

The proposed Avondale Aquatic Center was approved unanimously by city council.