Oceanside set to negotiate a world-class aquatic complex

OCEANSIDE — City Council gave unanimous approval for the city to begin negotiations with International Swimming Hall of Fame for the development of a world-class aquatic complex within El Corazon Park on Jan. 8.

The proposed complex includes an Olympic competition and training pool, 30-acre water park, 400-suite hotel and 100-room dormitory for athletes in training.

Six sand volleyball courts and 500-seat stadium seating are also part of the proposed development plan, that City Council and Sudberry Development, which holds a disposition and development agreement with the city, gave the staff an OK to look into negotiating.

Following the council meeting Sherman Whitmore, International Swimming Hall of Fame facility development director, said talks with the city began two years ago and formal negotiations will begin “today” following City Council’s approval.

Whitmore said the next step for Swimming Hall of Fame Partners is to conduct a series of studies to determine geological and ecological considerations and economic viability of the proposed project.

They’ll then develop a formal plan to bring back to City Council to consider.

There is no hard timeline for how long it will take for the studies to be completed and a detailed plan to be developed, but Whitmore said he hopes a final plan is in front of City Council before six months.

A time limit of 180 days has been set by the city for negotiations.

There was minimal discussion by City Council about the aquatic complex because no formal plan was introduced.

“We’re in the very early stages,” Peter Weiss, consulting assistant and former city manager, said.

“It’s too premature to get into what it could be,” Weiss added.

Residents shared their concerns and asked City Council to keep the Olympic training pool open to the public at a reasonable fee. Requests were made to include hours for seniors and children.

Speakers also voiced concern that the volleyball courts and stadium seating were not part of the El Corazon Park master plan.

“Some elements of the development proposal benefit residents of Oceanside,” George McNeil, representing Friends of El Corazon, said. “Also some elements are not in residents’ best interests.

“A water park doesn’t make sense in this area. It’s not economically feasible.

“A 400-room hotel and 100-room dormitory far exceed the 150-room hotel in the master plan.”

Despite concerns all speakers said they favored the city going forward with negotiations.

Councilwoman Esther Sanchez referred to the informal proposal as a “bit of a wish list” and said she understands part of the development would help fund the facility and focus on serving groups beyond Oceanside residents.

Mayor Jim Wood said he is impressed by International Swimming Hall of Fame, which has a facility in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and the proposed Olympic training center.

He added that he expects the final hotel and dormitory room count to end up at about 125 rooms total.

“The Olympic training center seems to fit in,” Wood said. “Let’s see what it really is.”

The number of initially proposed elements that will be in the formal development proposal remain to be seen, but all elements were included as viable possibilities.

After the meeting Whitmore said the volleyball courts and dormitory were included in the plan at the suggestion of USA Beach Volleyball, which expressed a need for dormitory housing near training facilities.

“There’s a genuine interest,” Whitmore said. “The benefit is team sports access going on year round.”

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