Since January 2006, the city had pursued an idea to create a swim center on a 16-acre plot of land within the Ellis development — at the northeast corner of the project on Corral Hollow Road north of Linne Road. That plan was stalled by the recession, according to Mayor Brent Ives, who was on the City Council in 2006.
“We looked at the cost of operation and about the time we were getting into that, the economy turned,” Ives said. “So we began looking for more cost-effective means by which to provide the same things.”
The present council, including Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maciel and Councilwoman Nancy Young, is still wrestling with the economic realities that began years ago.
“I think it’s important to realize that this has always been tied to the Ellis development,” Maciel said in an interview Monday. “When the market goes flat and there’s no development, there’s not going to be an aquatic center until there is development.”
Without that development, the council and city staff began looking for alternatives. During the Sept. 17 meeting of the council, Wild Rivers Irvine LLC came forward and expressed interest in building a for-profit water park on the Ellis land previously considered for the public center.
“What Wild Rivers is saying is that they think they can operate this thing in the black,” Maciel said of the amusement park’s proposal.
Young wants to make sure some of the needs expressed by the Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond task force are met by Wild Rivers.
“I’ve asked several times if there will be a separate community pool as part of that complex,” Young said Monday, “where people could get in for lesser prices than more of an attraction-type place.”
Both Maciel and Ives see the potential of allowing Wild Rivers to build in Ellis, which they said would free up city money to fix Joe Wilson Pool in Dr. Powers Park and make Pinkie Phillips Aquatic Center at West High a better venue for swim competitions. The city has an agreement with Tracy Unified School District to use that pool for recreation and swim club practices when it is not in use by the school.
“It’s more economical — if you were just looking
in terms of dollars and cents — to throw some money at the West High pool and make it what we want,” Ives said, “renegotiate our use agreement with them. That would be the competitive pool. Fix Joe Wilson Pool and that would be the recreation pool, and let Wild Rivers do their thing. In essence, everyone would get what they want and it would be smaller capital outlay.”
Maciel said he had heard from the competitive swim community that the pool at West High was unsuitable for hosting competitions.
“It works, but there’s things you can do to make it work better, which would require some investment and control of the site,” he said.
Talks to see if TUSD would even be willing to renegotiate the agreement and give more control to the city are underway now.
“The wild card here is TUSD. So what I’ve asked staff to do is begin those discussions now,” Ives said.
But those talks might not turn into a good solution for Tracy’s swim clubs.
“The likelihood of that idea happening is not very high,” Ives said, “I think (community members) have the same concerns we do: The school district’s not going to give up control. They’ve not performed well on the use agreement we have now.”
TUSD spokesman Joel Danoy said the district was unaware of any outstanding issues related to the management of Pinkie Phillips Aquatic Center. He said that district employees met with city staff members at least once a month to discuss the pool and that any issues from those meetings had been solved or were in the process of being solved.
If talks with TUSD don’t result in a change in the status quo, the mayor said there might be another option.
“Then swing your cannons over to Wild Rivers and see if they can’t remove their 25-meter recreation pool and let us supplement them for a 50-meter competitive pool there,” Ives said. He added that he envisioned the competition pool being run by the city, separate from Wild Rivers.
All three council members believe the outcome for city residents must involve multiple sites.
“I don’t know that it will ever be the perfect medium that will meet everybody’s satisfaction. I don’t believe the work that the Tracy Tomorrow and Beyond people did was in vain at all,” Young said. “No matter what we come up with, it has highlighted that an aquatics center is needed and desired by the city of Tracy residents.”
Calls to councilmen Robert Rickman and Charles Manne for comment were not returned by press time.
• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4231.