Menlo Park has an estimated $9 million to spend on a new Burgess Gym, but it appears the city will need more -- a lot more.
Jaws dropped in disbelief at the March 12 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, when architects from Field Paoli, the San Francisco-based firm hired to design the new gym, said rising construction costs could push the price of the project to the neighborhood of $26 million to $42 million.
The cost projections are at least three times more than city staff's October 2006 estimates that pegged costs for a new gym at $8.4 million.
Mark Schatz, a principal at Field Paoli, repeatedly told commissioners that the price tag is a "ballpark idea" (not a professional estimate) of how high costs could run, but he noted that the final price might not be far off from that guess, due in part to the rising cost of steel and other building materials.
He said that one plan to build a new gym, gymnastics center and recreation center in one two-story structure could cost the city $42 million, and other less elaborate plans, including building separate facilities for gymnastics and traditional gym sports, could have price tags of $26 to $32 million
To see the four plans the parks commission discussed March 12, go to MenloPark.org/gym.
A new Burgess Gym is one of several projects intended to be built with Measure T funds; the $38 million bond measure was passed by voters in 2001.
But the next bond issue is expected to garner only $9 million, according to the latest estimates, leaving parks commissioners and city staff with the task of figuring out how to get more funding for the project, or how to scale back the costs.
"This is just the beginning of the process," parks commissioner Paula Maurano told the Almanac. "There's no way [the parks commission is going to approve numbers like you saw at the meeting. ... I'm sure we're going to get it back to the point where we enter the range of reasonableness."
But how the city can cut back costs isn't so clear, as commissioners, residents and sports groups have called for larger, more modern facilities, which are expensive to build.
At the March 12 meeting, Mr. Schatz and other Field Paoli architects discouraged consideration of remodeling the existing 34-year-old gym -- a process that wouldn't prove significantly cheaper since it would require extensive demolition and renovation to bring the facility up to American Disability Act regulations and current building codes.
"We're going to look at our options, and figure out the next step," said commission chair Nick Naclerio after the March 12 meeting. He suggested that the project be built in phases to spread out costs -- an idea supported by other commissioners.
Richard Cline, one of several council members to attend the meeting, proposed that the city consider seeking private donations to build the new gym.