By Reggie Ellis
visalia – Swimming has been a part of Greg Collins’ life since he could walk. As a young man he competed in swimming and water polo. As an adult he coached those sports. As a senior citizen, he continues to use swimming as a way to stay in shape. And later this month, as a Visalia city councilmember, he will use swimming as a jumping off point for a discussion on building an aquatic center in Visalia.
Councilmember Collins is inviting the public to attend a meeting at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 28 in the Council Chambers at the Visalia City Hall West, 707 W. Acequia Ave. where he lead a discussion for those active in the aquatic community and those interested in long-term planning of future City aquatic facilities are welcome to attend.
“I want to know what the community thinks,” Collins said. “I don’t want to carry the water on my own.”
Collins said 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, waterpolo 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 later this summer when College of the Sequoias will shut down its pool for repairs.
On May 15, the COS Board of Trustees approved a bid for $875,000 to replace the concrete deck, refinish the pool surface, upgrade fencing and wheelchair accessibility improvements. The pool modernization project is not expected to be complete until sometime this fall.
“We had a pool committee at one time but then the [Great] Recession hit,” Collins said about the committee which as been dissolved. “This is me resurrecting the conversation.”
Collins said he will open the meeting with some remarks, followed by a presentation of ideas and question and answer period. No RSVP is necessary. For questions or more information, contact Allison Mackey, Communications Manager, at 559-713-4535 or at [email protected]
Collins proposed the idea of an aquatic center nearly a year ago when he suggested adding $25,000 to the budget to study the costs of building an aquatic center in Visalia. He said he thought an aquatic center might be a better use of park development fees than the proposed $8.6 million proposed to build four lighted softball fields as part of Phase 5 of the Riverway Sports Park.
Despite the possible demand for an aquatic center, other councilmembers were skeptical of the idea pointing out that most pools were already underfunded and in need of repair. At the time, Collins countered by saying that parks and recreation facilities rarely make money but are important “quality of life” aspects that a city needs to have a vibrant community. Ultimately, the council did not include the study in its funding list. Since that time, Collins has suggested that parks, such as Mooney Grove, and aquatic centers can make money if properly promoted and marketed.
“Clovis has hosted state swimming championships and more than 2000 people showed up,” Collins said. “That brings people into the community to buy concessions, stay, eat out and contribute to the city’s [hotel] and sales tax.”
To reach Council Member Collins directly, email [email protected] or leave him a voicemail at 713-4400, extension 6313.