After all, providing a place for swim teams to practice and host meets was the genesis of the project in the first place. Pools at local high schools are often unavailable for swim team practices and meets, the city has been told repeatedly. The development of swim teams beyond the original Tracy Tritons, as well as increased interest in water polo and possibly even synchronized swimming, add weight to the idea that meeting the needs of those aquatic athletes is an essential element of the water park.
The 52-meter competition pool and a recreational pool with an area for swim lessons are included in the second phase of the project, but there is no funding for the estimated $15 million cost of that second phase.
If the funding were in place and the pools were assured to follow in a few years, it wouldn’t much matter which facility was included in the first or second phase. But it could take years for the second phase to be developed.
In fact, the city’s set-aside aquatics park budget is about $2 million short of the estimated $15 million for the first phase alone. Though there is hope that lower-than-estimated construction bids could make up the difference, that leaves Phase 2 fully unfunded and, possibly, far off in the future.
As envisioned at a recent City Council meeting, the first phase is centered on several water slides. Also included are an appealing lazy river and an interactive water fountain; a shallow activity pool; a play structure with nozzles, fountains and other amenities; and landscaped picnic areas. Both phases were showcased in a virtual-image presentation that architects showed City Council members recently. In total, it’s an attractive water-oriented space.
But what is projected in the first phase is essentially a water-slide park without a swimming pool in sight. If water-slide parks are so popular and such great revenue-generators, why are commercial water slides at Vernalis and Manteca now closed? The city can ill-afford an expensive, unsustainable amenity.
While architects are in the process of tweaking final elements of the plans and before bids are sought, it might be a good time for the city administration and council to step back and take a long, hard look at what the first phase of the water park will include — and not include — to make absolutely certain their priorities make sense.