Mission Viejo

  Marguerite Aquatics Center Renovation; Cost vs. Benefit

 By Larry Gilbert
Marguerite Aquatics Center
Before sharing my analysis of the pending $6.5 to $7.8 million renovation of the Marguerite Aquatics Complex, used almost exclusively by the Nadadore swimming and diving teams, let's review their history. 

Those of us who live or have lived in Mission Viejo tip our hats to the Mission Viejo Company for creating this fantastic "master planned" community which they called "the California Promise." They surely understood marketing in their efforts to sell perhaps 25,000 new homes in competition with other surrounding cities, such as Irvine. They entered annual floats in the Tournament of Roses parade, created the oasis "jewel" called Lake Mission Viejo, and held annual St. Patrick's day parades. In addition to providing numerous ball fields and parks, they have also added several recreation centers for the use of our residents.

The world-class Marguerite complex, used by the Nadadores swim and dive teams, was one of the recreation facilities. Let's review the Nadadores performance and contributions to positive name recognition for Mission Viejo.  

Before we became a city on March 31, 1988, the teams, under coaches Mark Shubert and Ron O'Brien, sent multiple representatives to the Olympic Games, winning numerous medals which brought notoriety to the Mission Viejo brand. Those medal winners included Shirley Babashoff, Brian Goodell, Greg Louganis and Lisa Jacob, to name a few. 

However over the past 26 years, under swim coach Rose and the dive coach, the list of Olympic participants has tailed off with only 8 Olympic representatives including 2008 and 2012 swimmer Chloe Sutton who finished 10th in the 2012 400 free.

With that declining Olympic record in mind, let's now review the proposed "needs assessment" proposal from Aquatic Design Group. The proposal to spend upwards of $7,802,942 (Option #3) is from someone else who has no skin in the proposal. Note: Options #1 & #3 include $1,000,000 for a new dive tower.

Let's acknowledge that the Marguerite facility is approaching 40 years in age which warrants upgrading. Let us also acknowledge the Nadadores team’s continued wins in National events. In my opinion however, those medals do not receive the same National and International recognition and the resulting media coverage that enhances our city enough to justify the virtually exclusive use of the facility by the Nadadores and the proposed renovation cost.

 As part of the proposal, the Nadadore Foundation "believes" they can raise $1,366,000 towards their wish list. We’ve been down that road. In the expansion of the Murray Center, we primed the pump for the MV Foundation who pledged to raise over a million dollars. It never happened. Once a project is completed the chances of raising any real money falls off dramatically.

 When does the local MV resident get to enjoy our pending multi-million investment? In the proposed July-August Summer Schedule for the 50 meter pool, Coach Rose and others have all 8 lanes locked up from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. from Monday through Friday. Our children would be out of school during those months but unless they join the Nadadores or sign up for private lessons, I don’t see an opportunity for the rest of the community to enjoy the pool. On Saturdays and Sundays in July-August, Coach Rose has locked up all 8 lanes of the same pool from 6 a.m. through noon.

 On April 21, 2014 the city entered a 20-year agreement granting them a revocable license to use the complex .Starting July 1, 2015 we can give a 30-day termination notice. That would trigger a 12 month time frame for them to depart.

 In 2012-13 the City subsidized the utilities with $120,654 plus $24,264 for facility landscape. In the Nadadores’ 2012 tax return (Schedule A) they valued the City contribution at $400,000.

 While we should maintain all our City-owned infrastructure facilities, and take measures to improve our energy consumption, in my opinion this proposal is simply too one-sided and should be rejected.

 Larry Gilbert, a retired electronics industry executive, has lived in Mission Viejo since 1977. He is an elected board member of the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights. Larry is also a former Board Member of South Coast Christian Assembly church and leader of their Senior Ministry.

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