$25 million South Lake Tahoe Rec & Swim Complex renovation considered
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Tucked away off of Highway 50, the current South Lake Tahoe Recreation & Swim Complex isn’t much to see. And for anyone that doesn’t know it’s there, it can be hard to find.
“It’s hidden,” city assistant director of public works Jim Marino said, describing the location.
Its dark entryway, duct-taped basketball court, cinderblock changing rooms and patchwork swimming pool roof reflect 40 years of largely neglected renovations. An estimated $170,000 in annual heating and utility costs for the underused facility is an equally pressing concern.
Change is in the works, however.
The City of South Lake Tahoe Recreation Department hosted the first of multiple public comment sessions regarding a proposed $25 million renovation plan Tuesday, Dec. 8. The plan is expected to include a more environmentally friendly facility better suited to a variety of users.
“Anything is viable at this point,” said Gregory Tonello of Williams+Paddon, the architectural design firm that will be working on concept drawings for potential plans.
“This should be a hub location,” Marino said during the Tuesday meeting. “The building needs to say ‘recreation.’”
Marino was among those who said the recreation facility should cater both to the local and visiting populations, and that it should be better integrated with the recreation path system.
Tuesday’s public comment session included a wide range of ideas from an expanded climbing wall to the more outlandish ninja training program — based on the popularity of the TV show “American Ninja Warrior.”
One local in attendance, who described herself as working in the service industry, stressed the importance of a better pool facility — one of the leading focuses of the renovation.
“I can’t tell you how many tourists I’ve told to go to Carson or Minden,” she said referring to the uninviting nature of the current pool.
Others in attendance expressed a need to cater to winter-sports athletes, proposing potential partnerships with private institutions or organizations like the U.S. Ski Team.
A more family friendly facility was also a common theme.
“The rec center here, it’s not kid friendly,” said South Lake Tahoe High School junior Jordan Deas, expressing interest in his hometown’s future offerings.
The desire for an indoor soccer field, expanded weight and physical training equipment facilities and meeting spaces were also expressed.
Some proposed including a more central location for city meetings and other gatherings as well as food and beverage options.
Tuesday’s session was geared toward broad-reaching public input. Marino said the city is working on a website for additional public input, and it plans to host additional public sessions between now and April of 2016. Tonello and city recreation manager Lauren Thomaselli said they expect to have initial concept renderings by April. The drawings will include multiple options for the existing facility or for expansion.
“We’re not going to see the deliverables until April,” Thomaselli explained. “This is really an information gathering stage.”
It didn’t take long for someone to address the biggest question behind the potential for building a new state-of–the-art recreation facility: “Do we have the kind of economic base to afford it?”
Newly appointed South Lake Tahoe mayor Wendy David and mayor pro-tem Austin Sass both said the financial aspects of the project are pending and will be discussed at an upcoming city council meeting.
“There is a price tag for this,” Sass said. “City council is going to talk about ways to raise money.”
Measures could include public and private partnerships or tourism-based tax proposals.
“There are all kinds of ways to do this,” David said, emphasizing that the city has yet to delve into it at length.
Sass also suggested that any financing measure would likely be decided by voters.
“This issue may come to you on the November ballot,” he said.
The city’s past inability to make progress on larger projects was of some concern.
“We’re tired of working long and hard on projects that sit on the shelf,” Marino said, adding that the trend seems to be changing with projects like Lakeview Commons and Bijou Bike Park.
“Finally we’re building stuff you can see,” he explained.
The proposed recreation center expansion would likely occur in phases. Marino also pointed toward the potential for the city to acquire some of the nearby land from the county in order to bring direct access from Highway 50 to the recreation center.
A public follow-up session has yet to be scheduled, but Thomaselli said they plan to host another meeting in February.
More information is available at http://www.cityofslt.us.