THE COMMUNITY CENTER WAS PART OF THE GOLF COURSE DEAL
The Community Center offers fitness classes, cardio and strength equipment, racquetball, pickleball, tennis & swimming. The center also has two meeting rooms for rent, a golf shop and restaurant/bar.
Accessibility should have been addressed in 2015 when the building was acquired. There was no money to do so. Finally, an elevator is estimated to be installed late 2023 & will improve ADA requirements at the facility.
On August 7, 2014, during the Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum, then Mayor Hiremath suddenly revealed his number one priority was a community center in Oro Valley. This need had been identified previously by others but was ignored.
Hiremath disclosed that he had been speaking with other community partners about doing a community center. He did not reveal until the December 2014 council meeting that the partner was HSL Properties - his largest campaign donor who was negotiating the purchase of the Hilton El Conquistador Resort at the time. HSL needed to shed the golf courses to make the deal financially viable yet they needed to offer golf to retain the Resort status.
Therefore, HSL offered to sell the golf courses, tennis courts & country club building to the Town for $1M. The golf courses were a money pit. The restaurant lost money. And while the 1980s country club building was touted as a turnkey community center, it was nothing of the sort. It was run down & not ADA compliant.
Nevertheless, the then Council “majority four” (Hiremath, Hornat, Snider & Waters) justified the deal, claiming it would cost $20M to build a new community center & this was a great deal. (Note: Some felt that cost was inflated. At that time, the Parks & Rec Advisory Board (PRAB) already had a 40,000 sq ft community center in their plans for Naranja Park. Costs were estimated to be $8-10M based on a Tempe-based architectural design firm that had designed/built multi-generational community centers throughout Arizona. Nevertheless, the Naranja Park community center was removed from the Parks & Rec Department plan & replaced by an event center).
The purchase was to be funded by a new half-cent sales tax that would cover ALL the needs of the Community Center, Tennis & Golf. The acquisition was approved in a 4-3 split vote on December 17, 2014. It created division within the town & spawned a failed recall attempt.
All the sales tax revenue went down the drain for golf, leaving limited funds for community center improvements. In Nov 2019, Council rejected the Town Manager’s proposal for a $3.2M bond for “community center repairs” & chose a pay-as-you-go model.
The ADA issue came to a head in 2022/2023. After reviewing several options, Council ultimately decided in March to add a ground level elevator at the front entry to the Community Center. The approximate cost is $1.75M & is estimated to be completed by the end of 2023.