Swim solution starts with Joe Wilson Pool
by Sam Matthews
Oct 25, 2013 | 11863 views | 11 11 comments | 500 500 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Joe Wilson Pool at Dr. Powers Park, 900 W. Lowell Ave., as seen in 2012.  Press file photo
The Joe Wilson Pool at Dr. Powers Park, 900 W. Lowell Ave., as seen in 2012. Press file photo
Wednesday afternoon, I drove over to Dr. Powers Park to take a look at Joe Wilson Pool.

Peering through the chain-link fence, I was reminded that the pool and its surroundings were quality facilities. I saw that the pool was filled with water (to keep the structure intact) in its main area and in the 3-foot-deep area on one side. Also visible were a diving board, concrete decking, the entry building that houses pool equipment and shade structures, all surrounded by grass and nearby trees.

Of course, as at least some Tracyites will recall, the pool has been closed for three years — since 2009.

That reality, which became more apparent to me recently as discussions about the need for an aquatic center continued, prompted me a month ago to ask some questions about the pool, its condition and its future.

My questions about Joe Wilson Pool:

1. What’s wrong with it?

2. What would it take to bring it back to life?

3. Are there city funds available for a pool-restoration project?

With the assistance of city staffers, especially Assistant City Manager Maria Hurtado, I have received answers to my questions.

The answers:

1. The pool building needs to be repaired and some equipment needs to be replaced; the deck needs to be replaced to bring it up to American with Disabilities Act compliance; the diving board needs to be replaced; repairs are needed for the drainage system; and control fencing needs to be improved.

It should be noted that the pool, after encountering pump problems in 2008 and being closed for more than a month that summer for repairs, was operational at the beginning of 2009, when the decision was made not to open it that summer.

In addition to the need for facility improvements, the principal reason it was closed — as cited by city staffers — was that the city, in a cost-cutting effort during the economic downturn, didn’t want to operate two recreational swimming facilities at the same time: the Wilson Pool and the Pinkie Phillips Aquatic Center at nearby West High School.

2. The cost estimate most often cited by city pool consultants to bring the Wilson pool up to standard for continued use is $1.9 million. Sometimes that figure is rounded off to $2 million. The cost of replacing the existing pool, which has odd dimensions, with a standard 25-meter competition pool is estimated at $4.4 million. A 50-meter Olympic-sized pool would take $9.2 million.

3. At one time, there were city funds to restore Joe Wilson Pool, but no longer. About two years ago, when the City Council studied capital improvement needs for the next five years, the city staff presented three options for pressing capital-project needs.

Restoring Wilson pool was initially among the five top-priority projects that had sufficient city funding, totaling $7.1 million from several funding sources. (The others were a new fire station to replace Banta firehouse, playground improvements in a number of parks, a new animal shelter and a police firearms-training facility.)

The City Council wrestled with these and other possible projects at an April 3, 2012, workshop and then held a special council meeting later that month. After a lengthy discussion at the meeting— and I’ll have to say the council really spent time and energy on this — the $1.9 million for Joe Wilson Pool restoration was eliminated and set aside instead for the city’s share of the costs of the proposed aquatics center. Councilman Steve Abercrombie’s motion was approved unanimously.

End of answers.

It should be noted that architects designing the first phase of the aquatics center didn’t include a 52-meter competition pool in the $15 million project. Included were three water slides, a “lazy river,” shallow activity pool, a wet play structure and a “sprayground.” A 52-meter pool along with a “flow rider” and a recreation-swim lesson pool were later tacked on as several possible “additives.” When the first phase would be built and when a second phase would follow is not known.

Right now, the city is awaiting proposals for an aquatics center from Wild Rivers, which would operate a commercial facility, and The Surland Cos., the residential-development firm which earlier offered 20 acres and $10 million for an aquatics center in its Ellis project.

We’ll have to see what those proposals offer. A hearing is scheduled in March.

In the meantime, I think the city should take another look at restoration of Joe Wilson Pool as a cost-effective and time-saving way of providing a community pool well suited for recreational swimming and swim lessons.

That would allow the Pinkie Phillips Aquatic Center at West High, with its 50-meter pool, to better serve the needs of local swim teams for year-round competitive swimming and water polo.

Some day, Tracy will have a new aquatics center. But when that will be and with what facilities, no one knows. For the immediate future, the Joe Wilson pool could be a useful facility in meeting Tracy’s water-recreation needs.

• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or shm@tracypress.com.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
October 29, 2013
Too much bickering and nothing getting done. Status quo. If you build a pool that can service both recreation and competition you will be able to bring in more money from it. It is a good location that the city already owns. Blow it up and rebuild it there. Here are some great answers to great questions: http://www.usaswimming.org/ViewMiscArticle.aspx?TabId=1755&Alias=rainbow&Lang=en&mid=7716&ItemId=3555
October 29, 2013
It's not really anything to do with bickering. It's just that anytime someone wants to build something then someone throws out objections. For example, Sam Matthews said it would cost ten million dollars to build the competition pool that you researched and shared in your web-link. That was nice, but once they tried to build a pool at Joe Powers park. What happened? People didn't want it. At every instance when someone tried to build a pool someone got upset. It's not bickering. It's a culture of NIMBY. A lot of people embrace this culture by default. It is all we hear from the local media these days. It's kinda hip these days to speak like a NIMBY, even though we obviously don't know what it means. And when issues like a bigger pool arose years ago people did not "bicker", mostly they just kept their mouths shut and let lawyers speak for them.

I will say something that may come as a shock. I think our newspaper embraces NIMBY wholeheartedly. Notice it says nothing about resistance to building a bigger pool years ago at this same location? What he forgot? Is saving it up for his way-back-when column or the next article after the fervor is whipped up? That's one way to sell papers?
October 28, 2013
If this pool is of quality construction and can be brought back to life for under 2 million; it certainly deserves our consideration. Tracy gets VERY hot in the summer and our children certainly need more cool, healthy recreation. I recall driving by and seeing everyone having a wonderful time there. Not all pools need to be for competition. We need an evaluation by a reputable pool contractor and re-think this.
October 28, 2013
How many recommendations do ya want? This has been hashed an rehashed since th mid 90's an th recommendations have all been th same. What da ya get when ya sink 2 mill inta th existin pool? An old, not very serviceable, small pool(fer th entire population of Tracy), with an undersized parkin lot that's all gonna need another 2 mill cash infusion a couple of years down th road.

Funny, back in th mid 90's th Parks an Rec department came up with a plan ta put in a half sized Olympic pool in th same location at Dr. Powers park fer somethang like 2.5 mill. Shoulda done it then but people:

1. Didn't want it in thair neighborhood because of th traffic an noise.

2. Thought th cost was too high an th project too extravagant.

What's happened since? Basically nothin except th City got inta bed with TUSD an invested money inta that pool with th proviso that people in th city would be able ta use it fer recreational swimmin when not bein used by th district. Didn't work out very well did it?

What's happened since? A lot of money bein wasted plannin, designin, arguin and really nothin much else. Mean while a generation of children have grown up in Tracy ALL without a City owned an operated pool ta larn how ta swim in an a bunch of older folk who would like ta take a cool dip in a pool when th weathers hot.

An frum th looks of it, th bickerin goes on while more money gets wasted an nothin else ta show fer it What? We gonna wait another fifteen years or so? Hey, how about another evaluation by a reputable pool contractor so we can re-think this again, an again, an again an again?
October 27, 2013
Please note that competition pools should be built in the dimensions of a 50 or 52 meter by 25 yard Olympic size pool. NEVER build a 25 meter "competition" pool. They are obsolete. If you build a non Olympic size pool it should be a 25 yard pool with at least 8 racing lanes and some added width for diving and or warm up areas and maybe a shallow area away from the racing area to accommodate smaller children and handicap access.
October 26, 2013
Curious_George, The pump was the first "reason" for the shutdown of the pool. Now as listed in the article , they have additional reasons. In re reading the article, it clearly states that the city does not want to "operate" another pool. So they use West High for more than what it should be used for. The Wilson pool was built for recreation, but it doubled as a competitive pool when West High didn't have their pool yet. The Joe Wilson Pool was built as a replacement to the Historical "PLUNGE" where swim lessons were so very important to Joe Wilson and his recreational staff.

There is nothing wrong with the YMCA , I stated they do a fine job. I'm just stating that the City Parks and Recreation department, at one time one of the largest employers of the youth in Tracy, and one of the main recreational outlets for the kids in this town ... no longer exists....

Regarding the fields, they are there, and yes the leagues that agreed to develop them will be paying to play there with a lease and the maintenance cost. However work has not yet begun because of hold ups, and I hope that the leagues can pay for the build and maintain them.

October 27, 2013
Like the plunge. The Joe Wilson pool is obsolete. Why should they spend money on an obsolete pool. The Pinkie Phillips pool is a lot bigger and better suited pool. I don't see they are making up reasons. I think Sam did a good job explaining the reasons.

Here is a helpful question. Why would YOU spend millions on an obsolete pool? Or how would you justify two pools when one costs an arm and a leg and it won't be of much use. Nobody has competitions in a pool that small. The Joe Wilson pool is too small and too old.

I think somebody wants to build another pool. If so, let them. Why waste money on an obsolete pool? Maybe I'm getting old, but I don't understand the complaint. If my car was as old as the Joe Wilson pool I would have replaced it twice over.

I used to have a pool that old. Finally had to back fill the yard. It cost a lot to maintain an old pool. I didn't want to drain my pockets. Every time they came to fix it they said they don't have parts for a pool that old.

At some point we recognized the same for the plunge. And looking at the Pinkie Phillips pool might help you to see that?
October 25, 2013
1. 2 million dollars for a pool that risks being closed for 3 months is too much.

2. 4.4 to 10 million with inadequate parking won't happen.

3. When Jerry Brown became governor did he take money from municipalities an if so will he ever return that money?

4. Please outline why all the delays. You have been writing the same thing for how many years now? And we still don't know what's the hold up.

I'm guessing the Tracy Press should be held culpable if they don't tell us what is causing the delay. People have no idea what to do, who to write and what to write about. So please. Not another hole in the ground story. Just tell us who is responsible for the delays and let the people decide.
October 26, 2013
Fix the damn pool. Seems like we hear new reasons why NOT to fix something that would be great for the TRACY RESIDENCE. Bring in waterslides and it becomes very commercialized, bringing people that may not be the best visitors to our town.

If you look at the whole picture..... it seems that the city of Tracy wants no responsibility to anything recreational in our town. We needed sports fields, so big whoop, we got Legacy fields, nice fencing, but now they expect the leagues to build their own fields per the cities specks...., and if they can't get done (the leagues have so much LESS money than the city) the city washes their hands of the reason why the sports fields aren't usable.

The city also farmed out their youth programs to YMCA (they do a great job, but again city taking no responsibility). There is no City of Tracy Parks and Recreation anymore..... Maybe this is why the city doesn't want to fix the pool, because then they will have to manage it!

Sad when the city doesn't want to take care of their own youth programs....
October 26, 2013
Hi WOWreally?

If they spend millions on the pool and it still needed a pump that took over a month to find, would you rubber stamp it when it sits empty for half the summer?

Also, if you look at the whole picture, the sports teams are planning for the next 25 years out. What's exactly is not usable? The leagues don't pay for use of the fields?

And what exactly wrong with YMCA?

What exactly is not being managed?

I'm not exactly sure I understand your complaint. It is rather difficult to parse. Perhaps could you add more details?
October 29, 2013
Haven't been by Legacy Fields or whatever they're calling the sports park across from Holly Sugar, have you? It's graded dirt and a fence.

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