SCHENECTADY — The Capital Region Aquatic Center is another lap closer to reality, with a $2.5 million commitment of state funding announced Friday.
The 80,000-square-foot complex has been a decade in the planning and fundraising stages, first in Malta, now in Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady.
It would offer a comprehensive facility that could host swimming and diving competitions, instruction, individual and group recreation and professional training, sometimes simultaneously in multiple pools. It would be unique in the region and one of only a few facilities of it kind well beyond the region
In September, Kara Haraden, resident of the facility, estimated the cost at $35 million and said the organization had enough in donations and commitments to cover two-thirds of that sum.
What the eventual price tag would be is unclear, though. Inflation has been rampant since September, particularly in the construction sector, and costs are likely to continue rising.
The latest piece of the funding puzzle was announced Friday by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam. His district includes the western part of the city but stops short of Mohawk Harbor, which falls into the Assembly district represented by Phil Steck, D-Colonie.
Santabarbara is advocating for the aquatic center as an asset beyond his district, beyond even the city, benefiting the entire region.
“It is a regional asset so I think it’s reasonable that it’s funded in the state budget,” he said. “There’s a significant economic development impact from these types of facilities. People will be driving here, bringing dollars into the city and county.”
Santabarbara said the complex is not just about the swim competitions that bring athletes and parents from considerable distances to stay in hotel rooms.
“There’s a number of community pieces about this I like,” he said, including swim lessons for children, lifeguard training, emergency response practice and therapeutic recreation for those with special needs.
“Having all the other benefits, this makes it a fantastic project,” Santabarbara said.
Another significant project is envisioned for Mohawk Harbor: a 2,850-seat arena that would host Union College ice hockey games and other events.
In April, Santabarbara announced an even-bigger chunk of state money for that plan — $10 million.
The arena concept also is a work in progress. Union President David Harris said in April that the projected cost had jumped from $35 million when the idea was floated in 2020 to $40 million or $50 million now.
The arena also was touted for its value as a potential economic driver, bringing people into the community who might not otherwise visit or stay here.
Once the tens of millions of dollars are in hand, a significant amount of planning, not least for traffic and parking, would have to be invested before either of the two facilities could be built.
But space open for development does remain in Mohawk Harbor, which the Galesi Group converted from Rust Belt brownfield into a small community over seven years at a cost of nearly $500 million.
The site of the former locomotive factory complex now hosts two office buildings, two hotels, a casino, an apartment building, a string of townhouses and an amphitheater, plus a marina in its namesake harbor.