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Council rejects sports facilities study, calls for more cost-effective plan
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The Sports and Recreation Facilities Prioritization and Feasibility Study was rejected by the City Council on Tuesday, which asked the consultants to come back with a more cost-effective plan. - photo by Photo Contributed

The Turlock City Council took a step towards determining the city’s future recreation facility needs Tuesday, receiving results from the Sports and Recreation Facilities Prioritization and Feasibility Study that was conducted in order to assess opinions regarding which facilities are needed in Turlock.

The study has been underway since last April, when The Sports Management Group presented to the Parks, Arts and Recreation Commission a list of facility priorities, or needs for certain facilities within the city. The consultant team, Lauren Livingston and Julie Spier of SMG, inventoried sports and recreation facilities within the city, taking suggestions for the program needs from the community to match prioritized facilities with those that are in demand.

The facilities that were recommended by Livingston and Spier last year included an aquatics center, indoor gathering centers, outdoor gathering centers and a multi-generational space.

Based on these recommended needs, SMG consulted with the Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Department to develop an online community survey which would assess the opinions regarding the need and support for those specific recreation facilities in Turlock. In addition to the two public surveys, SMG also used a range of other methods to engage the public, including a citizen advisory team, a public workshop, online engagement and printed materials.

The first survey conducted last summer between May 23 and June 3 only yielded a two percent return, with just 346 Turlock residents participating. This led the results to be nullified, and the community survey was once again conducted from November through mid-January. Results from the second survey increased to 783 responses received – a 128 percent increase from the number received from the first survey. According to SMG, responses between the two sets of surveys were very similar.

In both the summer and fall surveys, citizens expressed the need for interconnected paths for walking, biking and hiking, a recreation center and an aquatics center. These three items were identified as priorities for the City by SMG, and while interconnected bike and walk paths are already included in the Turlock Active Transportation Plan, a recreation center and aquatics center were recommended as two facilities that should be considered for Turlock.

“A couple of things we were asking within the survey were what is the prioritization, or how do we help the council make decisions in the future and that was one of the objectives of the study,” said Spier. “What we heard clearly is that your community wants facilities that currently do not exist.”

The suggested recreational center would cost between $35 and $42 million, said Spier, and the aquatics center would bring with it a price tag of $10 to $18 million. A plan for interconnected pathways throughout the city was not presented, since they are included in the Active Transportation Plan. If approved for development in the future, both centers would likely require a voter-approved financing method for the majority of funding, while other funding could come from capital means such as operational fees, major donors or partnerships within the community.

Mayor Gary Soiseth expressed his concerns with the findings of the study, stating that Turlock is already home to places where community members can fulfill both their aquatic and recreational needs.

“I’m fairly disappointed with this report actually because it gives a very generic look at where we should go and it focuses on very costly capital improvements or additions to our portfolio,” he said. “It doesn’t talk specifically…about whether our community is actually aware of some of the opportunities that already exist.”

Soiseth referred to Stanislaus State’s newly-constructed lap pool, which is now open to the public, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ gymnasium in town and the Salvation Army gym, which is currently raising funds for a remodel.

“I’m not trying to be negative, I think that a lot of stuff you brought to the table is very good and constructive,” Soiseth told Livingston and Spier. “I don’t want people in our community to think that we’re going down the road of voter-approved measures for $60 million worth of infrastructure…that’s my gut reaction to it and I’m trying to be constructive with my criticism.”

The council ultimately did not accept the report and voted to modify it, with Soiseth calling for a more cost-effective plan and a closer look to be taken at how interconnected pathways can be implemented throughout the city.  

“I think we need to explore a little bit more that first one of individuals being able to go out and use our walking paths…it was our number one priority and I think that we should honor that a little more,” said Soiseth. “I would like to see a study that takes into consideration what we can actually apply. This is a little high-level for me, a little costly for me.”