Swim facility gets nudge from Aquadarts’ boss

By From page B1 | June 20, 2014

Want to get something done — and done right?

A word to the wise: enlist the Davis aquatics community.

The names that stand out — Pete Motekaitis, Stu Kahn, Jamey and Doug Wright, Carolee Gregg, Billy Doughty, Tracy Stapleton — are but the tip of this city’s pool-proponent iceberg.

During summer months, as many as 5,000 families make use of local pools. At least 2,000 of those swimming enthusiasts are linked to organized programs from Davis Aquatic Masters to Summerdarts to UC Davis and Davis High teams.

When Community Pool was on the endangered species list, it was Aquadarts head swim coach Doughty and Summerdarts anchor Gregg who worked out a deal that brought the weather-beaten ol’ facility back to life through a short-term summer-lease plan.

But our municipal swim facilities need more than a quick fix.

And Doughty, a former Clemson standout, just authored a plea to our City Council: He hopes Davis will include a 50-meter pool in the future.

He says, as the council ponders the need for a fall vote on a parcel tax, that a new facility (estimated at $9 million) would “reduce yearly operational aquatics budgets (general fund) and bring in new business to create an economic impact to local Davis businesses.”

If the council goes forward with a ballot measure, according to Enterprise staff writer Dave Ryan, the game plan is to use the money for road repairs, their annual maintenance and pool refurbishing.

One estimate puts citywide pool repair at $7 million.

The argument regarding the scope of another city parcel tax aside, a new swim stadium — one with a 50-meter pool — would be a terrific addition for the city.

We pass on swim meet after swim meet because of no appropriate facilities. As fans of local swim programs will testify, those weekend competitions are big business for those cities that can host.

It also adds to the convenience of local swimmers and their families and (depending on use guidelines) should open a central option for recreational folks dipping the wet fantastic when it gets to be, well, like it is now outside …

Doughty is a terrific fundraiser and coaches like Stapleton at Davis High have told me that this community, given the chance, would “completely support a 50-meter facility.”

Doughty told me last year “When we go to Redding (for Junior Olympics), for example, we book 40 rooms — just Aquadarts.”

He went on to point out the handful of big meets that could (would?) come here and the obvious benefit to local businesses.

Doughty put in black-and-white to the council something that elected civil servants (politicians) can understand: votes.

“The aquatic-program groups represent over 2,000 current participants and 50 years of (history and alumni supporters). We are a very active and vocal group that could be a huge asset in the support of this tax.”

He goes on to pledge organized assistance in getting the word out:

“Our groups are very well-organized and would be proactive in marketing and working to inform the citizens of the need for transportation and pool repairs.”

The council recently agreed with their colleague Brett Lee that the council — not staff — needs to pare down the list of things for which a parcel tax would be used.

My hope is that the council already knows what we citizens want and that list can be fine-tuned with continued outreach and a couple of well-planned, well-run public discussions.

Listen to Doughty. He’s right. Also, he and his followers (we should consider it a new movement called the Pool Party) can help find private money to partner with the city.

In doing so, a plan needs to be drawn — in concrete. Costs and a timeline for the project have to be solid and the ballot measure must be air-tight. For its part of the parcel tax: “A 1,000-seat, 50-meter pool will be built through this parcel tax. $7 million comes from the parcel tax once the (assigned group) deposits $2 million with the City of Davis,” or something like that.

Sure, when you put the new pool in with road repairs (and God knows what else), it does feel a little pork barrel-ish. But hey, Doughty promises votes.

If approval of a swimming pool gets our roads fixed, who’s to argue with a great community improvement like a swim stadium?

— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

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