Many visitors to Lompoc pass by an abandoned recreational facility on Ocean Avenue as they enter for vacations, a day of wine tasting or as they simply pass through. I am sure many of them wonder why a major building is vacant; many townspeople are wondering the same thing.
The building, in front of City Hall, has often been the target of vandals over the last several years. It is becoming both an eyesore and a testimony to the inability of government to address management of their facilities.
Youâ€™ll recall that this venue was closed 17 years ago after an engineering study confirmed the plumbing, electrical and structural conditions of the facility had deteriorated to the point that simply overhauling the building wasnâ€™t going to be cost effective.
So, a new state-of-the-art $13,000,000-plus aquatic center was built to replace it. The design phase was somewhat chaotic.
Citizen groups and council members kept adding things as the design process matured. Each change required a redesign and additional costs until what was proposed as a three-pool complex became a five-pool complex and the original cost estimate nearly doubled.
When the place opened, one key feature, a dump tank and slide, couldnâ€™t be used because it either wasnâ€™t designed properly or built to specification.Â Now the feature has been limited to operating at half the original capacity for â€śsafety reasons.”
And, although there was a 100-meter, Olympic-style competition pool, there were no seating areas or a timer system, two critical components for competition swimming; these had to be added later by civic-minded citizens.
Since construction was finished, the new center has become a serious maintenance burden and the cost of construction may never be fully recovered.
Corrosion caused by the chlorinated fog that forms from five heated pools must be mitigated; the pool is drained every couple of years to repair the liner; and the sliding panels in the roof are regularly fouled by blowing dust from farm fields, combining with the ever-present moisture from Lompoc fog that clogs the rail system.
But, it is a very nice facility and many visitors and community members use it regularly.
Ten years ago, council members asked the staff what they were going to do with the old facility. So far, there has been no progress toward either repairing or removing the old building. The exception is that the city determined the building was unsafe for public use.
Two proposals were presented to the City Council in 2006. One was for repurposing it as a Police Protective League venue; the other was to demolish it for a parking lot.
Neither idea gained traction, so a $750,000 budget item, which has never been funded, has been in draft budgets to demolish the old facility ever since.
The old pool site is near the center of Old Town in the City Hall/Superior Court complex and as such, the site should be respected for its value to attract future development. There are some new developments currently proposed for the area around Ocean and H, but what to do with the old building remains a mystery.
So, what will the city do with the old pool site? I donâ€™t know what the visionaries down at City Hall will finally come up with, but a creative use of this prime downtown real estate is essential for rejuvenating the core of the city.
â€” Ron Fink, a Lompoc resident since 1975, is retired from the aerospace industry and has been active withÂ LompocÂ municipal government commissions and committee since 1992, including 12 years on the LompocÂ Planning Commission. He is also a voting member of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association. Contact him at [emailÂ protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.