City staff recommending $18.43 million contract for new aquatic center
During their Nov. 2 meeting, City Commissioners will consider awarding a contract to Swank Enterprises for $17.9 million for the base bid and $354,000 for a slide in the leisure pool for a total contract of $18.34 million for the new indoor aquatic and recreation center.
Staff is recommending approval of the contract.
The new facility, as proposed, is about 45,000-square-feet of new construction, and site work including excavation, new utility extensions, parking lots, playgrounds and landscaping.
Staff asked commissioners during their Oct. 19 meeting to postpone a contract decision to Nov. 2 so they have time to properly review the bids.
The facility will be built in Lions Park at 900 29th St. S. and will include a recreation pool, lap pool, gym, fitness center, walking track, multi-purpose room, party room, locker rooms, sauna, restrooms and child watch area.
An indoor aquatics and recreation center was identified in the Park and Recreation Master Plan that was adopted by the City Commission in November 2016.
The Natatorium was closed in 2018 and the city manager has said on many occasions that once the new facility is operational, he’ll recommend closure of the existing city recreation center on 2nd Avenue North.
The new facility will also meet training needs for Malmstrom Air Force Base and the Montana Air National Guard.
The facility was designed by LPW Architecture with TD&H Engineering.
The city was awarded a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense that’s being matched by city park maintenance district funds.
The city received four bids and Swank Enterprises was the low bidder.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring on the facility and be completed by the 2025 grant deadline.
Work started this fall to relocate a water line in the park in advance of the facility construction.
The project specifications included a base bid for facility construction and 22 additives for various components such as military training equipment, exterior aquatic and playground equipment and slides for the indoor pool.
The base bids ranged from $17.9 million to $19.6 million and the cumulative amounts, with the additives, ranged from $20.47 million to $22.19 million.
City staff are recommending awarding the contract to Swank for the base bid and the added large flume slide in the leisure pool area.
“It is the assessment of city staff and the design team that the flume slide will be an integral component in terms of family and community engagement with and utilization of the facility. The attraction will also enhance facility revenue to support the facility that will flow from that engagement and utilization,” according to the staff report.
The recommended contract award will exceed the current project budget, but staff intends to use the city’s authority under its construction agreement form, once entered into with Swank Enterprises, to work with Swank to develop a deductive change order reflecting value engineering and other measures to better align the ultimate contract amount with the current project budget., according to the staff report.
Once that form is agreed on, staff will bring it back to the commission for formal approval.
“It is worth noting that the process to secure grant funding, design the facility and request bids for project construction has occurred under the cloud of COVID-19, supply chain issues, and recent material inflation costs. No one could have projected the current financial environment or timing to let the Aim High Big Sky Center bids and as a result, they were higher than anticipated. Despite the current economic conditions, staff believes it is appropriate to secure a construction contract now, as all indications are that costs for materials will only increase,” according to the staff report.
Staff said that if the commission opted to rebid the project, prices could increase further and an indication of the tight market is that subcontractors are only willing to hold their prices for 30 days.
City staff will explore a formal fundraising campaign, including naming rights to the facility or components of the facility or equipment to address the budget shortfall.
Staff has said on numerous occasions that use and program fees for the new facility will be set by the city and will be designed to make the facility sustainable. Staff has also indicated plans to explore revenue generating options such as leasing concessions or commercial space within or outside the facility.
The former Natatorium, other city pools and the recreation center have been subsidized by the general fund for years.
For more background on the new aquatics center, see our previous coverage: