Upper Arlington officials are expected to enlist more than a dozen residents to look into the feasibility of building a community center.
Upper Arlington City Council is expected Monday, July 8, to appoint residents to serve on a study group that's duties will include exploring potential locations for a potential community center, how the facility's construction and operations would be funded and what types of programming the center would offer.
According to council President Kip Greenhill, the group wouldn't be charged with determining how best to bring a community-center project to Upper Arlington.
Rather, he said, it would be to recommend whether such a facility is warranted in the community.
"It is feasibility," Greenhill said. "It's not a done deal.
"This task force is not going to be made up of cheerleaders for a community center. We want all voices to be heard."
The city's most recent consideration of a community center comes after several failed attempts over the past three decades.
In 1990, council bowed to public opposition and pulled a proposal to pursue a $12 million community center out of a 15-year plan to bring $124 million in overall improvements to the city.
In November 2002, more than 62% of voters rejected a 1.5-mill levy for the construction and operation of a community center.
Then, in August 2007, council repealed an approved ordinance to purchase the Christian Apostolic Church, 4065 Kenny Road, for $1.85 million, with plans to convert it into a recreation facility.
City officials are revisiting the community-center issue now after a survey included in a 2018 "comprehensive review" of Upper Arlington's parks and recreation department and its programming found that 64% of respondents were "very supportive" of "exploring feasibility of an indoor recreation facility for all ages." Another 17 percent were "somewhat supportive."
According to methodology cited by the city, 653 randomly-selected residents completed the survey.
"I'm glad we're moving forward with this," Greenhill said. "Eighty-one percent of responders to this survey support the idea of conducting a study to explore the feasibility of an indoor-recreation, community-gathering center.
"Eighty-one percent want us to look at the feasibility. That is, to me, very inspiring. So I want to be very optimistic that this will come together."
At a June 17 council conference session, Upper Arlington Parks & Recreation Department director Debbie McLaughlin said the concept of the feasibility study is to have a "citizen-based study group to assist and guide staff" in looking at whether a community center is wanted, where it might be located, how it would be paid for and what services it would provide.
"The services they could provide (would) be the citizen prospective and an additional level of analysis, in addition to that which staff would provide," McLaughlin said.
Greenhill said June 27 each member of council would appoint an individual to the study group, and the council would work collectively to form a panel that represents different geographic areas of the community, as well as various age groups and people with and without children.
"Probably, it'll be 15 to 16 people," he said. "It's a matter of getting that balance."
During last month's conference session, McLaughlin said the group likely would work until next spring, when it would bring forward recommendations to council.
Council member Michele Hoyle said she supported giving the group about nine months to look into the community center issue, and council Vice President Brendan King said he hopes it will bring forward information city leaders could use to decide if an indoor recreation facility is warranted.
"It's got to be an honest and authentic process," King said. "We've got to truly study this to see the true feasibility of a community center in Upper Arlington, and I think we're going to learn a lot."
Greenhill said council is prepared to provide support services to the study group, including contracting with financial consultants and survey experts that could provide additional details about how much a facility would cost to build and operate, as well as what services it could provide.
"I think this is an important study for our community, but we're not going into this with any preconceived idea that this is going to happen," Greenhill said. "This is not a done deal at all. We're just looking at the feasibility of it.
"It may come back that we're not going to do this at all. We need to hear as many voices as possible, as many different viewpoints as we can."