In 2002, the city’s Park and Recreation Board approved an NTC Reuse Plan that included a 46-acre park/open space area adjacent to the boat channel on the former naval base. Envisioned within that plan, is an aquatics complex to ultimately include three pools (one competitive), lockers and restrooms, concessions and offices, as well as space for stand-up paddling, kayaking and rowing.
The future complex would incorporate now-vacant Building 619 at Liberty Station, which is presently being rehabbed to accommodate the aquatics complex.
The future NTC aquatic complex was the vision of Point Loma civic activist Julie Cramer and former San Diego District 2 Councilmember Byron Wear. Both have worked with a six-member Peninsula Aquatics Complex Committee led by John Seymour, to advance the aquatic project partnership between the city and San Diego Unified School District. Plans are to expand that committee this year adding several more members.
“The City of San Diego has sent a letter to the Department of the Interior (National Park Service) requesting approval of a joint City and San Diego Unified School District proposal,” Wear said. “The project has identified joint funding for phase one, including $2.1 million from the city, and $5 million from SDUSD.”
Wear noted the joint project could include additional pools consistent with the land uses approved in 2001-2003 and certified by the California Coastal Commission. He added parking lots have already been built for the aquatics complex at the foot of Womble Road.
Wear also credited Mayor Kevin Faulconer for bringing San Diego city and SDUSD staff, along with school superintendent Cindy Marten, together in December 2017 to finalize details of the joint city-school aquatics project.
District 2 Councilwoman Lorie Zapf also participated in the cooperative effort, identifying $2.1 Million for rehabilitation of Building 619 for recreational uses, as well as putting $1 million in funding toward future pool construction.
“The City has agreed to operate the facility at no annual cost in exchange for the SDUSD capital investment creating a win-win for students and recreational swimmers,” said Wear, a former lifeguard. “The facility will be home for Point Loma High swimming and water polo, and could accommodate others as additional pools are built.”
Congressman Scott Peters, whose district includes the Peninsula, has also signed off on the joint city-schools aquatics complex effort.
“During my time on City Council, we worked to lay the foundation of support for the NTC Recreation and Aquatic Center, and it’s great to see progress at the city level and their recent partnership with San Diego Unified. Now that the city has allocated funding for the aquatics site, all we need is the site approval. My office continues to work with the Department of the Interior to help facilitate the final agreement, and bring this long-awaited recreation hub to the Point Loma community.”
Peninsula Aquatics Complex Committee chair Seymour said the Liberty Station Public pool complex is much needed and long overdue.
“We envision three pools over time in phases,” said Seymour noting, “We have all levels of government — Zapf, Peters and SDUSD — behind this, and there’s no reason why the project should not be moved forward on this site.”
Added Seymour of the aquatics complex, “The city would operate it. The school district would put in money to build it. We, the community, will go out to it. It’s a great opportunity.”
It’s been estimated by stakeholders involved that ground could be broken for the first pool in two years, and that the aquatic project’s initial phase might be completed within three years.
Seymour pointed out it’s hard to say exactly what the timeline will be for constructing the first phase of the aquatics project, with all the permitting and environmental issues that need to be done between now and construction. “This was the first goal, getting the Department of the Interior and other government officials to sign off on it,” he said. “This was a major step forward.”
The new aquatics complex is direly needed, especially by Point Loma High water sports teams, said Seymour.
“Right now the girls and boys swim teams have to go all the way to Memorial Pool in Barrio Logan during school time to practice,” he said, noting PLHS and the Peninsula YMCA are both “too small” to host any type of regional swim tournament.
Terms of the joint-use Liberty Station aquatic pools complex are detailed in a Jan. 19 letter to the Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. That letter states the design and construction phase of the project’s first phase would be structured as follows: The city would provide the real property as the location for the aquatic facility and approximately $1 million toward constructions costs; SDUSD would provide approximately $5 million toward construction costs, using proceeds of its general obligation bonds.