E.C. Residents Excited For New Pool, Proposed Fees Not So Much

Another typically blazing summer has El Centro residents eagerly anticipating the cooling currents of the city’s new Aquatic Center’s set to open later in September. It will be the first time the city has had its own public pool since The Plunge was demolished about a decade ago. The facility, bounded by Park and Adams avenues, and north Fourth and Sixth streets, is scheduled to be christened on Sept. 21 with a grand opening at 8:30 a.m. Among those looking forward to a swimming option in town is Lizette Diaz and her four children, two still in elementary school. “They’re so excited to check it out. They’ve been talking about it all summer,” said Diaz. “There’s finally something to take our kids to, like The Plunge, and give them the experience we had.” The Plunge was the popular city pool at Eighth Street and Adams the city closed due to its deterioration and costly maintenance. A variety of delays, some related to funding, caused the city to need 10 years to build a replacement. The Aquatic Center will include an eight-lane competition pool, a smaller warm-up pool, an activity pool (kiddie pool/splash pad), a lazy river meandering path of water, and a main building with locker rooms, showers, snack bar and party room to rent out. But all those amenities come at a price–$15.7 million for construction, as well as on-going staffing and maintenance costs. As such, the city council is in the midst of a debate over what the fees should be. The matter was discussed at its Sept. 3 meeting and the rates could be finalized at the Sept. 17 meeting. The proposed admission is $5 for El Centro residents and $8 for non-residents. A June-August summer pass would be $45 for residents and $75 for nonresidents. An annual pass would be $170 for residents and $280 for nonresidents. Family-of-four annual passes would be $425 for residents and $700 for nonresidents. The party room would cost $300 for two hours and the multipurpose room $105 per hour. Renting the competition pool would be $282 per hour, the leisure pool $296 per hour and the full aquatic center $578 for two hours. The proposed rental fees are the same for residents and nonresidents. Those prices drew mixed reactions about town on Sept. 5. “I think the admission and swimming lessons are reasonable but the rentals are a bit much,” said Diaz. “But the new pool is a great place to take friends to who are from out of town. We used to go to Wayland’s Water World (Yuma). It’s good but their costs are a little pricey. But they changed their hours and are not open during the week.” Lower rental prices might attract more people to stay local as opposed to traveling to recreate, noted resident Tiffany Mendoza. “What I think the city needs to do is look at what other cities charge and if their programs are successful then El Centro’s can be successful too,” she said. Rite Aid pharmacy shopper Maritza Muniz has three children, seven, 12, and 13 and explained she would likely take them to the pool in summer. “It would be nice if they had a family (summer) pass,” she said. “But $170 for an individual (annual) pass is expensive. I would only use it a few times a year.” Mende Carrdona, another Rite Aid shopper, has a son, 11, and a daughter, 14, and said she thinks the admission prices are fair. However, she added she is concerned the area where the new pool is located is a bit “shady” with numerous transients. “If they had the pool area covered it would make it more secure and I’d be more likely to use it,” she said. Valley Plaza patron Veronica Jauregui similarly criticized rental prices, especially because Imperial County typically has among the highest unemployment rates in nation. “Things are very challenging here,” said Jauregui. “The lifeguard and water safety instructor certifications are reasonably priced. But maybe they could have discounts for students who get good grades as a reward. It would encourage them and we’d love that.” The proposed fee for lifeguard certification is $200. Wendy Luevano, a downtown businesswoman, conceded she is baffled by why the city would charge a higher admission fees for non-residents. “My sister grew up here but she lives in Thousand Oaks now. When she comes down to stay she’ll have to pay more. That’s ridiculous. It’s a kind of discrimination. Whatever were they thinking?” Luevano asked. She also pointed out the family of four annual pass for non-residents takes quite a jump over the resident fee. “If I were an Imperial resident, I wouldn’t pay. That’s just wrong. We’re supposed to be united in Imperial Valley,” Luevano said. She added, “There’s no logic to the price differences for residents and non-residents,” she said. “It’s going to make a lot of people angry. And that cabana thing ($15 per hour rental for large and $11 for small), it cracks me up. When you go to Palm Springs or Yuma do they charge you for shade? They really need to re-think this.”

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