Water park plans may be sunk
by Michael Langley
Sep 13, 2013 | 11093 views | 15 15 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A 2007 drawing shows a competition-size pool and recreational facilities. The City Council will discuss changing plans for a community aquatics center Tuesday, Sept. 17.
A 2007 drawing shows a competition-size pool and recreational facilities. The City Council will discuss changing plans for a community aquatics center Tuesday, Sept. 17.
The future of an aquatics park in Tracy may be changing after eight years of public meetings, research and partial design.

City Manager Leon Churchill will ask the City Council at the public meeting Tuesday, Sept. 17, to authorize a memorandum of understanding with Wild Rivers, a Southern California theme park operator, to build an water park in Tracy.

“Early October of 2012 that City Council directed me and the administration to investigate public-private alternatives to an aquatic center,” Churchill said. “That was the interest to see if it’s possible, and now the answer that we are bringing back is it’s possible, so let’s keep going.”

Such an agreement worries the former chairman of the Tracy Tomorrow & Beyond aquatic facility subcommittee, Michel Bazinet.

“The concern that we have, this is an amusement park operator,” Bazinet said.

Bazinet’s committee was directed by the council in 2005 to research options for a public aquatics park. The committee compiled the needs identified through three public meetings.

“One of them is recreational needs. We need a place for our kids to do something when they come to Tracy,” Bazinet said. “Then there was competition stuff. So there is a need basically for a venue or amenity where they would be able to practice. The pools that they had were not competition class.”

Sandi Taylor, a member of Bazinet’s committee in 2005, initially got involved because her two children wanted to swim competitively.

“We were just a group of parents that really believed we needed a swim center in Tracy. Dr. Powers Park, Joe Wilson Pool, underserved the community the day it was built,” Taylor said. “We went to Stockton three times a week, so my kids could have the opportunity to play. My kids wanted to swim. Where did we go? Outside Tracy.”

Bazinet and Taylor said the City Council embraced the idea of public swim facilities when the subcommittee issued its findings Sept. 26, 2005.

“They fully stood behind the work not only the community did but the city did,” Taylor said, “because the city partnered with the community on this, as well as TUSD representatives, as well as council.”

At the City Council meeting Jan. 17, 2006, Les Serpa and the Surland Cos. offered $10 million and 15 acres of the proposed Ellis development on which to build an aquatics center. In exchange, Surland would get early access to homebuilding permits starting in 2012.

At the City Council meeting Feb 6, 2007, the city agreed to pay $1.2 million in partnership with Tracy Unified School District to build a 50-meter competition pool at West High School, Pinkie Phillips Aquatics Center.

At the City Council meeting March 2, 2010, the council instructed the city staff to begin designing a 20-acre facility with a 50-meter competition pool, a separate water recreation space and a grass area. The City Council, during a Jan 4, 2011, meeting, approved the $15,736,445 first phase of the swim center, which included only the recreation area. Planning stopped in February 2011 when Judge Lesley Holland halted development of the Ellis project.

Now, Churchill said financial realities are forcing the city to consider other options.

“In my interpretation, I can see that can be difficult, because we’ve had issues with hangar rates. We’ve had issues with wastewater rates. We’ve had issues with developer fees,” the city manager said.

Churchill believes a for-profit entity, such as Wild Rivers, could run a water attraction better than the city.

“That’s what those companies exist for,” he said. “If successful, there’s the possibility the whole facility could get built once it begins. The public option was looking at a phased process. So there’s a sense that a private venture could enable a complete project to be built.”

Bazinet has a different interpretation of what Wild Rivers would offer Tracy residents.

“They build and operate amusement parks, and amusement parks don’t have pools,” Bazinet said. “Certainly not competition pools.”

Taylor is frustrated by what appears to her to be an attempt by the city staff to circumvent the public will.

“Through this whole process, council has given clear direction to what the needs the unmet wants are of the community,” Taylor said. “At every step of the way, it really feels like the city (staff) continues to push back on that. They continue to look for other opportunities to not do it.”

The city manager doesn’t dispute Taylor’s accusation.

“Come on. How can we be enthusiastic over something that appears extremely difficult for local government to own and operate?” Churchill said. “If people are saying it’s got to be done this way, they’re also suggesting they’re willing to pay for it.”

Bazinet and Taylor insist their research shows Tracy residents want a community place to play and train, not a for-profit park.

The closing of the Tracy Plunge in 1985 and the condemning of Joe Wilson Pool at Dr. Powers Park in 2010 are key indicators for Churchill.

“The demise of those public facilities should give a clue about the city’s ability to operate them,” the city manager said. “This is also a barometer for this City Council.”

The City Council will consider an agreement with Wild Rivers during the regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 333 Civic Center Plaza.

•Contact Michael Ellis Langley at mlangley@tracypress.com or 830-4231.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 26, 2013
For the sake of not being admonished by NicoleW, Ardennes. Nicole, please take note the e & r are next to each other on the keyboard, sorry for the typo.
September 26, 2013
FTUD, NicoleW obviously doesn't see the big picture. I admit I may be wrong and this is just my opinion, but she seems like one of the people who feels they and their kids are entitled to something. While I agree sports can be an important tool to instill values, especially hard work and discipline, they should not be relied upon too heavily as they can also promote bad behavior and a greater belief in entitlement.

I cringe when I hear people refer to sports personalities as hero's. Jackie Robinson? Yes. Someone who simply does what they are paid a great sum of money to do? No.

NicoleW, if you and other parents are so concerned about teaching your kiddies values, rather than focusing on sports how about having them pick up some books to learn about real sacrifice and true hero's? You can start with the ones who spilled their blood at places like Yorktown, Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, Antietam, Normandy, Iwo Jima, The Aredennes, Inchon, Khe Sanh, Hue, and Fallujah.

Get it? While you are concerned about a pool & sports, I'm concerned about things which are much more important. Kids these day don't know squat about our history or the sacrifice of those who came before them, sad.
September 15, 2013
Vic writes: "Sometimes I listen to people who talk as if they have a right to anything and everything, as if by virtue of birth, they are entitled to every conceivable facet of human culture."

Simple explantion for this Vic. Caused mainly by the liberal agenda going back at least 100 years and accelerated greatly under the current administration, the undereducated and ill-informed

have been led to believe it's "life, liberty and the guarantee of happiness".

Sad, and unfortunately it's only going to get worse over the next 3 years, and will continue past the reign of our king if the current indoctrination of our youth is not curbed.

September 19, 2013
First off backinblack, Vic managed to make his point in a respectful way and didn't call anyone names and I respect his opinion because of it. Second, you have some grammatical errors in your statement. A community pool has nothing to do with politics. I understand that a bi-partisan agreement to help a community may be a little confusing for you but thankfully people I know don't think like you do. If you're upset about the last election then work harder to get your candidate elected but please do NOT disrespect the hard working parents who want to teach their kids about respect, competition and values that an organized sport can teach them. Sports doesn't recognize political parties so before you go around calling complete strangers "under-educated and ill-informed" run a grammar check on your computer before you hit "post comment."
September 20, 2013
NicoleW, Before popping off about grammatical errors you may want to do a little research. Here's what you will find, "undereducated" is correct and oh yea, it should be "bipartisan".

By the way, I have grammar/spell check in my email system so for kicks & giggles I took your advice. Bi-partisan, bipartisan, under-educated, and undereducated are all acceptable. However, going back to MY suggestion, do some research and you will find the versions I use are more widely accepted than yours.

Also, my reply to Vic was a generalization in regards to the "someone owes me something" or "I have the right to something" crowds which now permeate this country. Even though you missed it, I enjoyed seeing you join the ranks of those on this website who have a propensity for taking comments out of context, or fail to comprehend the point being made.

Thank you for playing.

September 25, 2013
I do not see where anyone can say that a community pool has nothing to do with politics. What do you think transpired to get us to this point? I'll tell you. It was the city dealing with Surland over building units vs. turning over property and cash to build a water park. Not to mention the city giving away of millions to Surland regarding sewer lines. You may think this is not political but politics has many meanings.

Those who are in favor of a water park are mostly residents who have a child in a competitive swim team. These are the parents who so desparately want a competition pool so their little "Johnny or Jennie" can learn respect, competition, and values. So you see, sports does take on political tendencies when applied in the correct sense of the word. Politics doesn't always have to involve Democrat's and Republican's.

I, for one, do not want my tax dollars used to subsidize a competition pool when I do not have family involved in competition swimming. I would rather have that money used to better equip our police or fire departments or to fund McHenry House or Interfaith Ministries.

September 25, 2013
We all know who will be using a competition pool the majority of the time if one is built. Let's have that team chip in to pay for maintenance.
September 26, 2013
What's your gripe if it was a decision of Surland vs paying for the pool? You carry on over several articles like you don't want to pay for a pool and when someone else pays for it you go all apeshet, like a Neanderthal on the Tracy Press website.
September 14, 2013
Sometimes I listen to people who talk as if they have a right to anything and everything, as if by virtue of birth, they are entitled to every conceivable facet of human culture.

I strongly believe humans need to regulate themselves; they need sensible laws to live by; they need boundaries; they need to be responsible; they need to think about the propagation of their species; etc.

Not all services or amenities ought to be paid by everyone. As a society, we seem to be encouraging irresponsibility, because it seems to create jobs.

I also recognize a lot of injustice and inequity in this country. There is a ridiculous economic imbalance, but all citizens play a role in this situation.
September 13, 2013
You know what why does it take so long for this city to get anything done quit slowing things down and get it built already while our kids are still kids. What is the promblem city council seriously look at our sourounding cities that we have to travel to to enjoy there facilities and downtowns you should be talk to one another and quit slowing down progress tracy is the slowest city Ive ever lived in its very frustrating
September 13, 2013
Just wondering........

Based on the 15 minutes of research I did, it appears the City has perhaps $1.5 million in their pool-fund. Surland is expected to pay into that fund $2 million in mid-2015 and $8 million in mid-2016. So by mid 2016, the City might have perhaps $11.5 million.

The cost of the aquatic park approved by council in January 2011, including all the facilities including a competition pool is around $25 million or so.

Where is the balance ($13.5million) of construction-funding going to come from, and when will it arrive in the city's coffers? Are you proposing the citizens vote to extend Measure E, the sales tax increase, for another few years? And where will the funds to operate the aquatic center come from? I really doubt it will pay for itself, especially if they cut out the revenue-generating features like the wave-machines and the lazy-river, and build only the competition pool, so I suspect the City will need to allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to make up the shortfall between revenue and expenses.

It just seems like a huge commitment from the residents to support those kids who want to participate in competitive swimming.


September 14, 2013
So right. I've waiting for this since my kids were small. Now one is married and the other is 16. Maybe be ready for grandchildren? First it's a go, off, on off on.UGH!
September 13, 2013
"Bazinet and Taylor insist their research shows Tracy residents want a community place to play and train, not a for-profit park."

Sorry but I have no desire to subsidize a swim facility.

Police and Fire? Sure.

Safe, smooth roads and sidewalks? Yeah.

Clean water, reliable sewer and timely garbage collection? Absolutely.

But a swim park with a training/competition pool? Nope.
September 13, 2013
What a misleading title! It makes it appear the water park won't happen, when in actuality it's a go. Of course, it isn't anything like the swim parents wanted, but it never was according to our City Manager's statement regarding the Plunge and Joe Wilson pools.

Again Surland Properties gets more at our expense. My water rates are being increased to accommodate these new houses and the Cordes Ranch development. Thanks City Council...
September 13, 2013
I guess the writer doesn't like the idea, so decided to write a negative op-ed to put another bullet in the plan.

Tracy could well use an aquatic park. To be honest, I go to Mountain house to use their fountain on occasion. The kids love it there.

Maintaining a pool is not only expensive, but unsafe for many home owners.

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