Negotiations continue between the town of Escondido and the American Heritage Education Foundation regarding the potential conversion of the former Palomar YMCA campus into a high school and college aquatic center.
Discussions began earlier this summer after the foundation, a non-profit organization that supports its sister charter schools in Escondido, approached the city about a potential partnership to build and operate a public aquatic center on the site of 1050 N. Broadway.
City and foundation officials said Escondido has long been looking for a community swimming facility that could accommodate high school and even college athletics for sports such as water polo, swimming competitions and sports. diving competitions.
Dennis Snyder, chairman of the foundation board and founder of Escondido Charter High School, Heritage Elementary School and Heritage Junior High School, said the idea was that organizations like that the schools and the city work together to create a swimming center serving the youth of the community. .
“I cannot stress this enough. We want it to be a community asset, ”Snyder said.
The San Diego County YMCA Board of Directors, which owned and operated the seven-acre Escondido YMCA campus, decided to sell the property earlier this year after suffering financial losses and membership drops due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The foundation took escrow to buy the property and hopes to close the sale by the first week of September, if not sooner, Snyder said. He declined to provide the potential purchase price, but said the foundation would issue a private bond to raise the funds needed for the acquisition.
In July, the city and the foundation signed a memorandum of understanding that allows the two entities to explore a potential partnership, which could include funding for construction by the city to transform the existing swimming pool into a suitable location for the athletics in high school and college. The potential costs of the continued maintenance and operation of the aquatic center are also under discussion.
Details of any potential partnership are yet to be defined, said MikeThorne, a spokesperson for the city.
“These costs are unknown and depend on the scope of the project which is still under negotiation. Likewise, who bears these costs is unknown and will be the subject of further discussion and negotiation, ”Thorne wrote in an email.
One thing that is clear, however, is the city’s need for a new aquatic center, officials said.
“The community and our local school district have wanted a competitive level aquatic facility for decades, and we believe there is support, demand and community benefits that would flow from it,” Thorne wrote.
Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara said city council agrees such a facility is wanted and needed by the community, and it remains to be seen whether an agreement can be reached with the foundation to use the Palomar facility. YMCA, or if the city would pursue a full-fledged aquatic center.
“No decision has been made. It’s still being analyzed, ”McNamara said.
The Palomar YMCA campus contains 85,000 square feet of indoor space in several buildings, including a preschool, gymnastics center, basketball hall, fitness center, multi-purpose exercise rooms, locker rooms , offices and an outdoor swimming pool.
Snyder and city officials said the pool would need major renovations to be used for sports such as water polo, swimming and diving.
“There is nothing in town that meets this need” for a competitive pool, said Snyder.
Snyder said the foundation wanted the YMCA to continue operating its on-campus youth gymnastics program, and potentially other programs, such as youth camps, once the foundation finalizes the purchase of the property.
If no deal is reached with the city, Snyder said, the foundation would use the current pool as is for local schools and swim teams.
The old YMCA campus also has the room, Snyder said, for charter school classrooms. Currently, the charter schools supported by the foundation welcome approximately 2,300 students from kindergarten to 12e school year, and about 1,000 other students are on a waiting list.
Snyder said he was optimistic about the possibility of reaching a deal to renovate the pool and turn it into a community aquatic center.
“At the moment, I’m pretty confident that everyone is on the same page and wants this to happen,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for our community to work together to have a first class aquatic center. “