By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – The City of Visalia has dipped its toe into the waters of a possible aquatic center. At its Aug. 7 meeting, the Visalia City Council approved adding a discussion about an aquatic center onto the agenda of a future meeting.
The item was placed on the agenda by Councilmember Greg Collins who surfaced the idea in June by announcing a community meeting to discuss the idea of building an aquatic center at the southeast corner of Recreation Park. He, along with Councilman Steve Nelson, held a meeting on June 28 to guage interest in building a 50-meter competition swimming pool, surrounding grandstands, a water slide and kiddie pool and locker rooms at the southeast corner of Recreation Park.
About 75 people turned out for the event and supported the idea as well as offering a few of their own, Collins said. He opened the meeting with some brief comments before sharing a slide show presentation about the possible layout of the aquatics center at the corner of Center Avenue and Jacob Street. Also in the slide show Collins pointed out that the facility would be surrounded by adequate parking consisting of five lots containing 186 parking stalls. The center would include a small lot consisting of nine parking stalls as well as two inset drop-off and pick-up lanes on Center and Jacob.
Collins himself pulled the item from the consent calendar for discussion at the most recent city council meeting. He said he would like the committee to be comprised of people representing disadvantaged youth, athletics, seniors, lap swimmers and others who would research and report on fund-raising, marketing and programming at the facility.
Councilmember Phil Cox was skeptical of adding another layer of government, and possibly a redundant one, by forming the committee.
“I think we already have a parks and recreation commission set up,” Cox said. “And that commission is tasked with the same task.”
Councilmember Steve Nelson was quick to disagree. He said the aquatic center committee would be focused on design, construction funding and how to make the facility self-sustaining. “Let them do the work and then send it to the parks and recreation commission,” Nelson said.
Collins explained that the committee would be independent and not sponsored by the city, so there would not be any costs associated with their meetings or research. Collins did ask that the city spend some money advertising for interested parties to apply for seats on the committee.
Collins has publicly stated there is a growing need for an aquatic center in Visalia because the amount of available time in the pool is shrinking for nearly every group. He said public swim time, lap swim for exercise, tri-athlete training and swim lessons are constantly competing with high school swim, water polo and dive teams. Collins said the City of Visalia and Visalia Unified School District have an agreement that high school athletics get scheduling preference during the school year but that City programs exercise that right in the summer months. He said the problem of pool time will be compounded this summer as College of the Sequoias will shut down its pool for repairs.
The committee, if authorized by the City Council, would make recommendations about a future aquatics center as well as coordinate water activities and “pool time” between the different entities.
To reach Council Member Collins directly, email [email protected] or leave him a voicemail at 713-4400, extension 6313.