Lompoc Aquatic Center Offers Recreation for All Ages

The City of Lompoc won an Award for Excellence for this project in the Community Service and Economic Development category of the 2007 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence program. For more information about the award program, visit www.cacities.org/helenputnam.

On May 17, 2000, an independent engineer delivered an unsettling report to the City of Lompoc: The community’s very popular and heavily utilized public pool was unsafe and in need of extreme upgrades. The pre-cast formed concrete structure that enclosed the nearly 50-year-old, six-lane by 25-yard pool was failing, and any significant seismic activity would cause it to collapse. The Lompoc City Council didn’t waste any time; in the interest of public safety, the facility closed that day.

While residents understood the safety considerations, the community lost a very important recreational resource. The city began work right away seeking public input about Lompoc’s current and future aquatic needs. The primary challenges included finding funding and a new site.

Working Out Design Considerations

In fall 2000, the city council appointed an 11-member citizen’s Aquatic Ad Hoc Committee composed of athletes, youth, seniors, coaches and others to communicate public needs and expectations. Over the next year, the committee worked diligently with the architect, aquatic consultants and city staff, holding study sessions and public hearings. As the process unfolded, the top three considerations were:

  • Designing a facility that would meet community needs well into the future; 
  • Ensuring that the facility would offer something for everyone; and
  • Offering the experience of an outdoor facility in an indoor setting to allow year-round enjoyment.

In fall 2001, the city council accepted the final report prepared by the Aquatic Center Ad-Hoc Committee and city staff, recommending a new three-pool aquatic center be constructed on city-owned property at College Park.

The city secured professional consulting services for the center’s design, a 41,000-square-foot facility with a 31,000-square-foot glass-framed aluminum structure enclosing the pools. To create an open feeling, multiple skylights provide natural light for daytime operations and retractable roof panels open to let in sunshine when weather permits. The design also included enclosed patios, locker rooms, family changing rooms, a meeting room, office space and storage amenities.

Funding the Project and Addressing Affordability

To fund the new Lompoc Aquatic Center, Lompoc property owners passed an assessment tax ballot initiative, imposing an annual levy of $19.57 per single family home. Construction funding included a loan from the city’s General Fund, a grant from the Lompoc Redevelopment Agency, local county funds and state parks monies.

Based on the recreational components offered at the center, the consultants determined the city could charge an admission fee of $10 per customer, but the city council knew the fee would not be affordable for many community residents. The creative programming of Recreation Division staff and the city’s commitment to subsidizing the aquatic center allowed the entry fee per customer to be set at $2.00.

Center Contributes Significantly to Quality of Life

The Lompoc Aquatic Center is located at College Park, which also houses the city’s skate park and the community’s YMCA. The aquatic center lies in the heart of the city’s redevelopment area, within walking distance for many low-income families. The center is adjacent to the Lompoc High School campus and a senior housing complex. A lighted pathway was installed from the housing complex to the aquatic center’s front door to provide access for senior residents.

The center opened in October 2006. With free admission on Grand Opening Day, more than 800 community members frolicked in the water and checked out the facility. The event included food, music and life-saving demonstrations. In its first week, the Lompoc Aquatic Center hosted its first high school water polo competition, an overwhelming number of customers participated in recreational swim opportunities and parents eagerly enrolled their children in swim lessons. The center features:

  • A 10-lane competition and water polo pool;
  • A 1,600-square-foot, 90-degree therapeutic pool with wet wheelchair ramp access;
  • A recreation pool with zero depth entry;
  • An interactive water playground;
  • Four 25-yard lap lanes; and
  • Two 126-foot-long winding water slides.

This broad array of aquatic programs requires lifeguards, swimming instructors, clerks and custodial support. The center employs more than 100 aquatic staff, making the City of Lompoc a regional leader in youth employment. The Lompoc Aquatic Center underscores the city’s commitment to upholding the quality of life for all residents in the region.

Contact: JoAnne Plummer, recreation manager, City of Lompoc; phone: (805) 875-8097; e-mail: j_plummer@ci.lompoc.ca.us.

This article appears in the April 2008 issue of Western City
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