About 80 years after Ventura’s first and only municipal pool closed, city officials broke ground Thursday on what will be a multimillion-dollar aquatic center and community park featuring multiuse fields for soccer, softball and football.
Dozens of supporters from across the city were on hand for the ceremonial groundbreaking of Ventura Community Park, located at Telephone and Kimball roads in east Ventura.
For Ventura native Jim McConica, the event was the climax of a 15-year quest to bring a public pool back to the city.
“When the community pool at the end of California Street was closed in the 1920s, promises were made by city officials to build a new one,” said McConica, a champion swimmer. “Now we’re getting it done, and it’s really spectacular.”
Voters approved the park project three years ago when Measure M, allowing the 95-acre parcel to be rezoned from agricultural land to park land, was approved.
Now construction is set to begin later this summer, with the park to be developed in phases.
Expected to be completed by spring of 2005, the first phase will include a state-of-the-art aquatic center featuring three swimming pools, two 25-foot waterslides, men’s and women’s locker rooms and two family changing areas.
The aquatic center includes a competition pool with depths of 14 feet in the diving area and 7 feet in the swimming area; a recreation pool for lap swimming with depths of 3 to 5 feet; and an activity pool, with a depth of 18 inches, geared toward children.
“The aquatics center was designed to cover, across the board, all the needs of citizens of Ventura,” McConica said.
Another important component in the first phase is the completion of three multiuse playing fields. Spread over 15 acres, the fields can be configured for a number of sports, including soccer.
Ventura has more than 3,000 soccer players competing in the American Youth Soccer Organization.
There will also be a lighted 1.4-mile bike and pedestrian path circling the park.
With only 25 acres being developed in the first phase, plenty of space would remain for the rest of the project, which includes a community center, picnic areas, basketball and tennis courts and additional playing fields.
McConica said no time frame has been set for completing the project, but the priority is to get the additional sports fields done first.
City engineer Rick Raives said the city will accept sealed bids for the first phase on Tuesday, with the final choice going to the City Council for a vote later in the month.
The council had previously allocated $21.5 million for the project, estimated to cost $22.7 million.
Raives said the additional funding will come from state park grants that have already been secured.
“This park is long overdue,” Councilman Jim Monahan said. “It’s going to be a great benefit for the city.”
For the Sacher family, Thursday’s groundbreaking means an end is in sight to the weekly shuttles from its Ventura home to Oxnard High School, where the Buenaventura Swim Club holds practices.
“It will be nice not to have to drive so far,” said Annemarie Sacher. “Our son is also interested in soccer, so we will get a lot of use out of it.”
As his daughter threw out the ceremonial first softball pitch, Charles Bonsignore, a 30-year resident who lives in the neighborhood where the park is being built, said it was past time for Ventura to build a community recreation facility.
“There will be tough economic times and there will be good economic times,” he said, “but this park should be a priority.”