EDC moves forward with feasibility study for aquatics complex

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

EDC moves forward with feasibility study for aquatics complexEmerging needs for a community pool — particularly in light of the closure of the only one accessible to the public — has prompted the IWV Economic Development Corp. to champion an effort to bring an aquatics complex to Ridgecrest.

IWVEDC Executive Director Scott O’Neil addressed the Ridgecrest Exchange Club last week, updated members and guests on the feasibility underway to determine the scope and cost of the complex.

O’Neil said that the Counsilman-Hunsaker has been contracted to evaluate opportunity, resources and drivers and come back with three options ranging from an all-inclusive approach to a more simplified, and affordable installation.

The endeavor aligns with other current EDC projects to generate sports tourism and add attractions that will draw other visitors to the valley, IWVEDC Executive Director Scott O’Neil said that the benefits of an aquatics complex create value at virtually every level of the community.

O’Neil noted that the cause has drawn support from stakeholders representing everything from drown-prevention and safety, health and wellness, competitive swimming, school sports participation and quality of life.

The steering committee includes representatives of local schools, the city, Ridgecrest Regional Hospital, private citizens and local businesses. O’Neil said the board is raising $30,000 to conduct the feasibility study.

Input from the broader public will be solicited at a June 22 workshop (see related article, this edition).

A member of Exchange asked O’Neil how the project would be funded. He said that depends largely on the scope of the project, but those options for building and maintaining the facility would be included in the study.

He did add, however, that he believed by keeping the venture under the authority of a private group, the construction costs would be considerably less expensive than it would in the hands of the government.

The EDC is already working with the county to secure a lease for the property north of Maturango Museum on China Lake Boulevard. The 14.4-acre parcel would ideally include development of a hotel, indoor pool for year-round swimming, outdoor pool for warm-weather competition and recreation, a climbing wall and more.

O’Neil said that the EDC hopes to attract tournaments, which would not only offset costs of facility maintenance, but would generate significant income for city and county coffers.

He also addressed concerns about the fate of Pinney Pool — closed earlier this year after a handicapped user challenged accessibility, and a city declaration of insufficient funds to bring it up to code.

“What happens with Pinney Pool is entirely outside of the control of the EDC,” said O’Neil. However, he said that the group is exploring possible ways to continue the legacy of the local hero through naming rights.

“We feel that our community owes a debt of gratitude to the Pinney family, and we want to honor the commitment to recognize his sacrifice.”

Watch the News Review for updates as results of the feasibility study become available.

Pictured: Scott O’Neil discusses the concept of an aquatics complex, as well as other opportunities for economic development, with the Ridgecrest Exchange Club. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2017-06-02