Bell Gardens approves plans for new aquatics center

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By Ashley Orona

Contributing Writer

BELL GARDENS — The City Council unanimously voted to hire a firm and approve a budget for a state-of-the-art aquatics center at the Jan. 25 council meeting.

Council members approved RJM Design Group for the design, architecture and engineering services for the proposed Aquatics Center at John Anson Ford Park. The city staff recommended the approval after the Aquatics center council ad hoc committee unanimously selected the firm based on its qualifications, experience and knowledge of the project.

The aquatics center at Ford Park has been non-operational since summer 2017 because it did not meet health and safety requirements or comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Council members and residents believe a new aquatics center will be a new landmark for Bell Gardens. They hope it will help community members of all ages learn to swim and encourage competitive swimming.

“We used to serve approximately 380 kids each day on average and to all of a sudden have to shut down a pool like that and turn all these kids away that is really what moved me to want to run for council because I knew that we could make a difference,” Mayor Marco Barcena said.

The need for the Aquatics Center has been discussed at several public forums over the last few years. Community meetings were conducted where residents voiced their opinions on the type of amenities they wished to see in the new aquatic park.

Residents were most interested in recreational swim opportunities and special events. There is also a special interest in water safety training and competitive aquatics for residents to compete on swimming and water polo teams.

The new center will feature three pools: a 50-meter pool and diving area; a therapy pool that can be used for senior citizen activities; and a pool with water slides for children.

“We wanted to make sure we were bringing the right firm for Bell Gardens, one that was going to get the job done and one that was also going to get it done on our timeline,” Councilwoman Alejandra Cortez said. “We want to speed this up as much as we can for our community. We promised [this Aquatics Center] for a really long time and here we are delivering.”

The Department of Recreation and Community Services released a request for proposals for the Aquatics Center last September and received 18 proposals. The committee and staff evaluated the proposals through a series of interviews with the firms and unanimously selected RJM Design Group.

RJM Design Group was selected because it proposed additional services at no cost to the city. They proposed creating a website specific to the design, construction and progress of the project that would be maintained by the firm.

Residents would be able to view the website to see progress during the construction phase of the project in real time. The firm also offered to support two part-time intern positions for two Bell Gardens residents studying engineering and/or architecture and who meet the educational criteria.

The city is paying $1.15 million for the design, engineering and architectural services for the aquatics center through the Los Angeles County Development Authority.

“We’re still in the middle of a pandemic but it is very exciting that we are moving forward in this vision for our community and it’s a long-term vision,” Cortez said.