Residents of Oro Valley have a lot to look forward to in their Parks and Recreation Department over the next few years. Work on new capital projects planned as part of our Parks and Recreation Master Plan will begin at Naranja Park, the Oro Valley Community Center and our multi-use path system. This fiscal year will bring design work and the start of construction with amenities to be completed in the next couple of years.
At the Community Center, residents will enjoy a resurfaced and improved parking lot, upgraded and improved tennis courts, and golf course irrigation repairs. Multi-use paths will be added to La Cañada Drive, Naranja Drive and the CDO Wash to connect the Community Center, Naranja Park, and James D. Kriegh Park to our popular trail system. Naranja Park, identified as a high priority, will be built out with new amenities. Residents can look forward to additional multi-use fields, pickleball courts, basketball courts, a bike and skate park, a splash pad and paved walking trails. These projects will significantly improve the quality of life in Oro
Over the past two years, the Town has involved the community in developing a Parks and Recreation Master Plan. From this plan came a new design for Naranja Park that works with the topography to minimize grading work. This design costs half of what the previous Naranja Park plan would have at build-out. (The estimated cost for the current Naranja Park design is $17 million, and six years ago, the previous design was estimated to cost $33 million at build-out.) Using bond financing for these capital projects at today’s record low interest rates will allow us to design and build the park as a whole, saving both time and money. It will also allow our current and future residents to enjoy these amenities years sooner without any tax increase.
To fund these efforts, the Town will implement a $25 million parks and recreation bond, which will be funded by the half-cent sales tax that was previously dedicated only to golf and the Community Center.
When the half-cent sales tax was originally implemented, it was planned to generate between $1.6 to $2 million in annual revenue, but it will soon approach $3 million per year—well over $1 million more than what was originally planned. Additionally, Town staff and residents have made efforts to cut golf losses, significantly reducing the need for a golf subsidy. In 2018, the golf subsidy was $1.75 million; for fiscal year 2021, it is projected to be less than $300,000.
These successful efforts included changing the golf operator to Indigo Golf, changing the operating model of the courses from a country club model to a municipal golf model by opening all courses to outside play, growth in memberships and outside play, and a $125,000 annual HOA contribution from adjacent homeowners.
Recognizing that these improvements in tax revenues and reduced golf losses could provide a parks and recreation funding source without a property tax, the Town Council unanimously voted on May 5 to broaden the use of the golf and Community Center sales tax to include all parks and recreation facilities and amenities. The Council then authorized utilizing this funding to pay for a $25 million parks and recreation bond, and recently set priorities for project funding based on the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. These priorities include the needed Community Center exterior refurbishments, enhanced connectivity in the multi-use path system, and the build-out of Naranja Park.
Health and wellness are important to our residents, and these new and refurbished amenities will support a high quality of life for existing and future Oro Valley residents. They will provide opportunities for physical activity and social interaction for years to come. I am enthusiastic about implementing the community’s vision for our parks and recreation program as articulated in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, and I’m excited that we’ll be adding new amenities to Naranja Park and increasing the connectivity of our multi-use path system—all without raising taxes.
Joe Winfield is mayor of Oro Valley.