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Members of the Cobre Valley Regional Aquatic Center committee meet with Senator Frank Pratt and Representatives T.J. Shope and David Cook about SB 1416. The bill passed the Arizona Senate in February but died before it reached the House floor because it was not put on the agenda. Contributed Photo

Aquatic Center hits first big bump but not defeated

The dream is a regional aquatic center to serve all of the Globe Miami area, but there are a few substantial hurdles to get over before the first big splash. 

Senate Bill 1416 was designed to create a revitalization tax district that included the county, the municipalities of Globe and Miami, as well as two school districts. It passed the state Senate in February but was never assigned to the agenda for the House and died. Globe City Manager Paul Jepson said one of the reasons it failed to get traction was the county (Gila) went neutral.

“We got it through Senate, but it was tough,” he said. “The bill was never assigned to the agenda, and that killed it.”

Although the Cobre Valley Regional Aquatic Center Committee feels confident it can raise the capital needed to build the facility through grants, fund-raising, philanthropy and foundation support, members want to make sure once it’s built it can stay open. The Senate bill, had it passed, would have allowed a tax district to be formed, which would then have gone to a vote of its residents.

 “Other pools got money to build but failed to make sure they had M&O (maintenance and operation costs),” Evelyn Vargas, committee chair, said. “That’s why we’re going through the pains of getting the district formed.”

Vargas said the committee worked hard with Senator Frank Pratt (R) to prepare the bill, and he was able to get it through the Senate Finance Committee. The bill was also supported by Representatives David Cook (R) and T.J. Shope (R).

Total project costs will be about $7 million and will include site prep, the pools, slide, fencing, deck, asphalt, the hospital road connection and other construction, permitting and fees connected to building the facility. The committee estimates it will take about three years to raise about $9 million for capital, and construction will start within the third year.

This project cannot, however, be considered a case of “build it, and they will come” because there is no doubt the facility will be used. The issues the committee is grappling with are the costs associated with keeping it open.

Daily fees, admissions, summer and nine-month passes will only pay a small percentage of the first year’s M&O of about $486,592. Year one’s income would only be about $82,430. Thus, the plan to form a tax district to pay for employees, supplies, contracts and replacement of equipment.

What’s Next?

The Aquatic Committee is already planning its next steps. At one of its March meetings, it decided it needs to do the following:

  • Ask two representatives from the councils of Miami and Globe to join the committee;
  • Get the county on board to support a new bill. This includes giving county representatives an autopsy about the death of the first bill and find out if they will support moving forward with another one;
  • Gather intelligence about why the first bill failed and change what needs to be changed;
  • Work with Senator Pratt and APS to formulate a new bill to be taken to the Legislature this fall. Garner the support and advice of Cook and Shope;
  • Shoot for a new bill to be drafted by June, and
  • Consider other strategies, including taxing options or creating a completely different mechanism to pay for M&O.

How It All Started

The city of Globe formed a task force in 2014 to determine the interest of the public in an aquatic center. Several potential sites were on the table then: Globe Community Center, High Desert Middle School, Miami High School and the Cobre Valley Country Club.

Gila County, the city of Globe and Resolution Copper paid to hire Breckenridge Group to conduct a site analysis, program development document and a market analysis. Ballard King & Associates were contracted by Breckenridge to provide a comprehensive market analysis of the service area. By June 2015, the task force officially became the Cobre Valley Regional Aquatic Center Committee, and members were strategically selected to represent the entire region.

The four sites were submitted to litmus test questions to determine their fitness for regional access, visibility and acquire-ability. Three were removed: High Desert School, the country club and Miami High School. Three other sites were added to the list: the Globe Unified School District Bus Barn, the McSpadden site and the BHP Billiton site.

Once the site analysis was complete, teams made up of a combination of committee members spoke at local clubs and organizations. On Dec. 13, 2016, the decision was made to pursue the BHP Billiton site, which is situated between Hwy. 60 and the Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center.

Question of Past Use

There have been some questions by community members about the past use of the BHP Billiton site. One question was whether the site has been used as a leach field for sewage. Bob Zache of the Tri City Sanitary District said it had not been used for a leach field, but he also said he does not support building the aquatic center there because of its proximity to his home.

Brent Musslewhite, manager of closed sites for BHP Billiton, wrote the mine was “exploring opportunities with the Cobre Valley Regional Aquatic Center regarding a potential donation of our Miami Gardens property.”

“Should the Aquatic center be determined as a priority community project, as part of our commitment to safety and sustainability, we would complete a detailed environmental study and other due diligence before reaching an agreement,” he wrote. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with the community and the Aquatic Center committee on the project.”

He said BHP Billiton is committed to investing in the communities where it operates and regularly seeks partnerships to “strengthen local capacity and contribute to improved quality of life.” 

The Board of Directors

Evelyn Vargas chairs the board of directors, and Bryan Seppala is the vice chair. Sherry Dorathy is the secretary/treasurer. Board members are Chris Collopy, Stan Gibson, Joe Heatherly. Jerry Jennex, John Marcanti, Tory Satter, Terry Wheeler and Paul Jepson.




About Aimee Staten

Aimee Staten has worn several hats over the last few years, but she recently put on one of her more familiar caps after four years of working in nonprofits: That of a journalist. She has 14 years of experience in the news business as a reporter with eight of those years as the managing editor of the Eastern Arizona Courier.


  1. Jo Ann merrifield

    Great to have found this sight. Hope to visit your city.

  2. Heather Petersen

    Cool to see this subject getting recognition again!

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