City Council approves $30 million aquatics center
By Lance Armstrong – Citizen Staff Writer
The Elk Grove City Council on March 29 voted 4-0 in favor of awarding a $30.8 million construction contract for the city’s future aquatics center and other site amenities to Arntz Builders, Inc.Mayor Steve Ly was absent from the Council’s special meeting since he had a speaking commitment elsewhere.The decision marks a milestone for a project that has been delayed for four years.Originally envisioned as a water park with various slides, the aquatics facility was once scheduled to break ground in 2013. The design of the current full-service aquatics facility began in February 2016.Groundbreaking for the project is scheduled for early May, and the targeted grand opening date is Memorial Day 2018.Located on a 20-acre area on the south side of Elk Grove Boulevard, between Big Horn Boulevard and Laguna Springs Drive, the future aquatics center features a 50-meter pool, a six-lane fitness and instructional pool, and a recreational pool.This facility is designed to provide competitive aquatics, instruction, water fitness, and family recreation. A competition pool was heavily advocated by local swim teams since none of Elk Grove’s six high schools have pools.The aquatics center is part of the first phase of the city’s civic center project. That phase also features a 31,500-square-foot community center/senior center/veterans’ hall facility, which will be solicited for bids by the city this fall.Included in the contract with Arntz is the construction of parking areas, a veterans’ park, and a pedestrian-friendly public space known as The Commons.Altogether, there were three bidders vying for the opportunity to construct the aquatics center project.Arntz was the lowest bidder. But because their bid was slightly higher than the budget for the project, the city made the decision to remove one of the alternatives: a reflecting pool at Big Horn Boulevard and Civic Center Drive.Council Member Darren Suen said that the reflection pool is an element of the project that can be delayed.“It’s probably more appropriate to plan it and execute that amenity with the (civic center’s future) library,” he said. “So, it could wait. It wasn’t a critical thing. It wasn’t something that we would miss for now.”Elk Grove Assistant City Manager Jason Behrmann said that Arntz has experienced building aquatics facilities and other projects.“They’ve built swim centers before, they’ve built schools, community centers,” he said. “So, they’re bread and butter is in the public arena. They do a lot of big, public community projects, so they have a lot of experience doing this kind of work.”Behrmann also explained the need for this facility in the community; he said that the Cosumnes Community Services District’s Wackford Aquatic Complex is not enough to meet local demand.“We don’t have enough swimming pools in the city,” he said. “The school district has not built swimming pools. So, the Wackford Center is definitely impacted, meaning they sell out in the summertime for their programs and their recreational swims. There’s just not enough water to accommodate all of the needs, and so this facility will help not only the swim teams and programs, but also provide more water for families to enjoy.”Behrmann noted that the city’s future aquatics center will not completely fill the gap in the city’s aquatic needs.“Even with this (facility), there still will be an unmet need in the community,” he said. “I know the (Cosumnes Community Services District) is planning for (aquatics) facilities in the future.”Former Mayor Gary Davis also emphasized the need to provide the city with more aquatics facilities.“Elk Grove swim teams are in a severe deficiency of access to lanes for practice and hosting large meets,” he said. “As an example, the Cosumnes Oaks High School swim team is on the road 100 percent of the time and has no home pool. This state-of-the-art aquatics complex will serve our swim teams, the community, and continue to put Elk Grove on the map.”Vice Mayor Steve Detrick mentioned there are only two public swimming facilities – at the Wackford Center and the Fox Swim Center at Elk Grove Regional Park – to serve a city with a population of about 167,000 residents.The city is currently in discussions with the CSD on an agreement to operate the future aquatics center for the city, and is also working with local swim teams to develop use agreements for the center.Ly said that he would have also voted for Arntz to be awarded the aquatics center contract.“It would have been (a vote of) 5-0,” he said. “I provided my input and that’s why there wasn’t an urgency for me to rush back. I had a feeling it was going in that direction.”Ly, who expressed a desire to have his next State of the City address held at the civic center, enthusiastically stated that he is looking forward to next year’s opening of the aquatics center and other site amenities.“The end result is I’m excited. Let’s make it happen,” he said.