A new recreation facility that could provide amenities such as an indoor aquatics area, a large gym and a conference center could be coming to Tehachapi in the near future.
Michelle Vance, manager of the Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Park District, is leading an effort to get a $43 million bond measure on the November ballot that would pay for the new center as well as renovations of some of the district’s existing park facilities.
“We don’t just want to build this nice, new shiny thing,” she said. “Our facilities are falling apart. There’s not enough money to upgrade or rehabilitate our existing facilities.”
Vance said that as part of developing a new master plan, the district conducted a survey in 2013 asking what the community wanted from the district, and new recreation facilities was highest on the list.
“We found that we need better facilities but also found that our community is willing to pay for better facilities,” she said. “Eighty percent of people who responded said they would be willing to do so.”
Vance said she envisions the new facility would have an aquatics center with three pools. Besides a main pool, she said she would like to see another for children and a third specifically for aerobics.
Vance said the city’s existing pool, the Dye Natatorium, is old, inefficient and expensive to operate. If a new facility is built, she said it’s likely the existing pool would be shut down.
Another goal for the facility is a large conference center that could allow for business meetings of hundreds of people, as well as various events such as weddings.
“There’s no public space in the community to sit more than 50 people. There’s few places for people to get married in the winter,” Vance said. “We are a retreat community. We are a natural place to have a conference center.”
Vance said other ideas for the facility include an indoor running track, rock-climbing wall and classroom space.
As for rehabilitation, Vance said there are tentative plans to have some of the bond money go toward renovating the West Park sports complex, such as by adding new lighting and repaving the parking lot.
Money could also go toward adding new bathrooms at Philip Marx Central Park, and adding new basketball courts and soccer fields at Meadowbrook Park. Vance said there has been consideration of creating a space at the park for mountain biking skills courses.
The money wouldn’t just go to parks, however. Vance said it would also go toward upgrading the campgrounds at Brite Lake and repaving potholes in the area.
Nick Cyr, vice president of Aspen Builders Inc. and a former member of the district board, said he’s excited to see a large community center.
”This is something the community has needed for a long time,” he said. “The city is growing. Our facilities are in need of an upgrade. There are endless possibilities.”
Cyr, who resigned from the board a little over two years ago due to moving to the Bear Valley area, said he would like to see more space for youth basketball. He also said a commercial kitchen that could be used for contests and other activities would be a good idea.
Aspen Builders is the sponsor of Tehachapi’s Activity Center on D Street, which offers space for various sports. Vance said that if a new recreation facility is built, it wouldn’t in any way replace the Activity Center.
Vance said the Recreation and Park District is just beginning the process of getting a measure on the ballot. She said she will present contracts with a consultant and architecture firm at an upcoming board meeting for consideration.
Vance said after that, she hopes to have a public hearing where the community can provide input on what features and services they would like the bond money to go to.
The district must have everything planned out to be able to put it on the ballot by the July deadline, she said. If the measure is approved in November, Vance said homeowners would be charged $43 per $100,000 assessed value in their property taxes.
“This is a revitalization of recreation in Tehachapi,” she said. “Recreation is a key part of a healthy life. This is one little piece of our quality of life that we need to improve.”