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Aquatic complex raises red flags for commission

OCEANSIDE — The Economic Development Commission voted not to recommend further consideration of the Swimming Hall of Fame aquatic complex at El Corazon on Aug. 4.

Commissioners said the aquatic complex, which includes a water park, is too far off the mark from the approved vision plan for El Corazon.

“One thing that was not contemplated on this site was a theme park,” Commissioner Tyrone Matthews said.

“The water park is way off the reservation from what we talked about.”

The 465-acre El Corazon site was donated to the city for park use. The vision plan calls for the park to be developed as a gathering space with trails, open space, recreation fields and limited commercial development to generate revenues to maintain the park.

In 2009 El Corazon Senior Center was built and opened on 7-acres.

Currently temporary competitive soccer fields are being graded and planted on 50 acres by Sudberry Properties/Soccer Field of Dreams.

The remaining acreage is undeveloped.

Swimming Hall of Fame proposes to develop an aquatic complex with several swimming pools, a 400-room extended stay hotel, competition beach volleyball courts and a water park. The project will be built on 50 acres, with 26 of the acres kept as open space.

John Maples, president of Maple M3 Architects, said the reason for including the hotel and water park is the facilities would generate revenues to maintain the aquatic center, and raise approximately $4.8 million annually in gross revenues including $3.9 million in transient occupancy tax.

The aquatic center, hotel, water park and volleyball courts were described as one synergistic entity, with each component supporting the others.

Maples said Swimming Hall of Fame is near the end of its lease at its Fort Lauderdale, Florida, location and is looking to relocate to Oceanside because the El Corazon site allows a hotel and water park to be built. The present operation has neither and is losing money.

“The water park offsets costs,” Tom Neary, a partner in the project with Swimming Hall of Fame, said. “We can deliver it (the project) to the city at no cost.”

The proposed pools and hotel were generally accepted by the commission.

Commissioner and Visit Oceanside CEO Leslee Gaul said an onsite hotel is needed to accommodate expected soccer tournament crowds.

“We cannot (presently) accommodate what the soccer fields will bring, we’re going to be losing out,” Gaul said.

The commission majority voiced objection to the water park, limited opportunities for public use of the facilities, reduced open space and an anticipated increase in traffic.

“This is supposed to be a community park,” Commissioner David Morris said.

City Council will consider whether to go forward with a development agreement with Swimming Hall of Fame at a special meeting Aug. 13.