Pool group adds housing, bond issue to funding plan

Posted on February 18, 2016 by Sonoma Valley Sun

The capital campaign for a community pool on Verano Avenue got off to a fast start, raising the $2.5 million needed to buy the property. Sonoma Splash, the nonprofit driving the effort, originally envisioned a complex that retained Paul’s Field as the home of the Sonoma Little League. But when major donations began drying up, that plan had to change.

Just what is a community pool? Sonoma Splash President Paul Favaro defines it as a pool to which everyone has access regardless of socio-economic status. There will be a usage fee, in the form of daily or monthly swim passes, but with “a financial option that fits everybody.” Unlike a club set-up, there will be no joining fee or monthly dues. “They only pay for what they’re using.”

How much the passes will cost, Favaro won’t say. Until a tight pro forma emerges from a new funding plan, he’s reluctant to discuss exact numbers.

“We’ve got to get to the next phase of development,” Favaro said. “To get over the hump,” his Sonoma Splash board was advised that to attract a second wave of donations, it needed to generate more of its own financing. That meant shutting down the baseball field to utilize all six acres of the property. “We had every intention to keep the field,” said Favaro, who admits his group “took a lot of heat” for the decision. “But it became clear we needed a second external source of revenue.”

The first external stream was always to be from a partnership with a private health club. (Although no deal is signed, the likely partner is Parkpoint Health Club.) That partner, Favaro explained, would build, at its own expense, its own facility on the premises. That private club would co-exist with the community pool, sharing pool and outdoor space but maintaining its own indoor gym and workout area.

Additionally, the club would pay to Sonoma Splash some sort of usage fee for its members using the pool. Favaro has no worries about the sharing the facility. Swim lanes will be reserved for community guests, and “there will never be a time that Parkpoint has exclusive use.”

The second revenue stream was a radical change to the master plan: Sonoma Splash would lease out another part of the parcel, two acres or so, to a developer to build and manage “affordable housing.” The scope and design of that development – and with them the definition of “affordable – depend on locking up the various funding elements, but could be as soon as six to nine months, Favaro said.

Other than ongoing fundraising, the final lane of revenue – Favaro calls it “gap funds” – a state bond issue of five to six million dollars. The California Municipal Finance Authority will facilitate the issue, he said, with the actual financing coming from some combination of financial institutions and individual bond purchases.

Explained Favaro, “What the bond agency is looking for is a revenue stream to support the bond payments, so at the time we apply for the bonds we expect to have a solid pro forma supported by three separate revenue streams: the ground lease on the housing development, the usage fee from Parkpoint, and the revenues from the community’s use of the facility.”

If all goes to the new plan, construction could begin in two years. Meanwhile, Sonoma Splash can reach out to new possible donors, the sources that Favaro says support programs (swimming lessons, for example) rather than capital campaigns.

The common logic about public pools, Favaro said, is that cost-wise, they are easy to open but hard to keep open. He sees the Sonoma project differently, with the major challenges up front. “Once we get it built, we’ll have a very solid economic foundation.”

— Val Robichaud

2 thoughts on “Pool group adds housing, bond issue to funding plan

  1. “How much the passes will cost, Favaro won’t say. Until a tight pro forma emerges from a new funding plan, he’s reluctant to discuss exact numbers.”
    TRANSLATION: “After nearly 2 years of publicity and fundraising, we still have no idea how much it will take to build or operate the pool, or where the money will come from. When we said we had a plan, we didn’t really mean a real financial plan or anything, just nice pictures of what we’ll build if somebody will only give us the money. But we’ve retained the ace consulting firm of Abbott, Costello, Curly, Larry & Moe LLC, to come up with a NEW plan and we’ll have something soon.”

  2. This plan has run off the rails. It sounds like Uncle Jerry’s bullet train…”we will start building here….no…wait…let’s build it there”
    Let’s have a bit of honesty here…Sonoma Splash had a few people who supported a ‘community pool’…until Save Paul’s Field came to fruition. The community decided that to tear down a historic baseball field might not be a good option. Now you have people actually rethinking as to whether a community pool is viable in that area. Then in steps the high school…”we can rebuild the pool”…and Sonoma Splash…their dream of some massive pool feature and financial gain is hazy. They have to find a financial stream…because a stand alone pool will not be viable. Here come the ‘affordable housing’ scheme…and the ‘new’ Parkpoint health club. So…it comes down to..tear down an iconic little league field…create a bohemith pool structure…and then what? It was a wonderful plan…but to locals…it is not worth it. Sonoma Splash is tearing down hundreds of memories…your kid’s first at bat…your grandkid’s first at bat. First hit…first grounder…first catch…first first. We have pools…which aren’t utilized by those you hope to attract…lots of people don’t know how to swim…and you think it is okay to take away the opportunity for kids to play baseball…to learn the value of teamwork? Paul’s Field matters…to Sonomans.

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