OCEANSIDE — Development has not slowed down in the heart of the city as the construction of an aquatics center and plans for a sports arena continue.
For more than two decades, the city has planned and gradually developed El Corazon park.
The 465-acre property was originally used for mining sand and other materials until it was donated to the city in 1994 by the mine’s former operator. After that, the city took it over and began the planning process to figure out what the property’s future use could be.
In 2009, the El Corazon Specific Plan was approved, making it the park’s guiding document for planning purposes. The document specifies what uses are allowed on the property and where they will be located.
“It essentially lays out the plan for that property,” said Deputy Manager and Development Services Director Jonathan Borrego.
Approximately 2.2 acres of the property is being developed for the city’s El Corazon Aquatics Center, which will include a 56-meter competition pool, diving boards, instructional pool, splash pad, administrative offices, meeting rooms, large multi-purpose hall, locker rooms and outdoor recreational and viewing areas.
The Aquatics Center is expected to open in summer 2021. Borrego said because construction was determined to be an essential service during the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, work never slowed on the pool.
The cost of the project is approximately $26 million, which is being financed through bond issuance.
Oceanside has two other swimming pools but nothing like the one planned for El Corazon.
“The other pools weren’t designed or sized for competitive swimming events,” Borrego said. “It made the most sense to build it here where it is centrally located and its proximity to access to roadways and the Sprinter Station down the street on Rancho Del Oro is ideal.”
Borrego added that the Aquatics Center at El Corazon is close to hotels in the area, including proposed hotel sites in the park.
Back in February, Council approved the development of a Hilton Home2Suites hotel on the piece of property owned by Stirling Development, but Borrego said that plan fell through after the hotel’s operator “essentially walked away from the deal.” Still, the site has been approved for a hotel and Borrego added that Stirling is “actively working with other hotel operators get the site built.”
The city is also looking to build several park sites throughout El Corazon. According to the Specific Plan, there are nine park sites that are proposed within the property.
“The city’s first priority is to get the Aquatics Center completed, but we’re also looking at ways to improve the space designated as Park Site 1,” Borrego said.
Park Site 1 amenities will include a combination of eight sports fields, three picnic pavilions, a concession area, two playgrounds, two restrooms and an open play area.
Park Site 1 will be located next to another big project coming to El Corazon — the construction of a new sports arena that will be the San Diego Sockers’ new home.
According to Sockers General Manager Sean Bowers, the team’s goal is to hopefully break ground on the arena around the start of 2021. From there, it will likely take about 18 months for construction to be complete with a completion goal of June 2022.
The city is working with Sudberry Properties, the arena’s developer, to get a development application for the Sockers’ sports arena project to be reviewed by the Planning Commission. The arena will have a capacity of about 5,500 for sporting events and about 7,000 for concerts.
Bowers said there will also be parking space and opportunities for festivals in the arena.
The Sockers hope to build a new fan base in North County. Sockers owner Phil Savagio wants to feel connected to the community where his team calls home.
“Phil always wanted to have a home for the team, to be connected to the community and to leave some kind of legacy for the community,” Bowers said. “This is the perfect place for our arena.”
Borrego said Park Site 1 is located right next to where the Sports Arena would be built. The city is currently prioritizing Park Site 1’s completion and looking for ways to finance the project so that construction could coincide with the arena’s construction.
Sudberry does not own the property but has development rights to certain parts of El Corazon, including the piece where its SoCal Sports Complex is located. Sudberry also has rights to develop the park’s village commercial area, the second hotel site and commercial pieces along Oceanside Boulevard.
Though Sudberry doesn’t currently own the property it is allowed to develop, it can request to purchase that property as part of its agreement with the city.
“That is something that is being contemplated right now,” Borrego said. “Sudberry is interested in purchasing the land and so the city is currently evaluating that request.”