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Our Opinion: Rec versus development

August 06, 2001

At a recent California League of Cities workshop in Monterey, the Calexico City Council got a glimpse of what may prove to be a future venture for the municipality — the construction of a sports complex.

Council members had their appetites whetted for an indoor facility that could house weight-training equipment, a swimming pool, a basketball court and a lap track. Calexico Mayor Pro Tem John Renison said looking into the construction of such a facility "is a quality of life issue."

Providing recreation facilities such as a sports complex and the under-construction Nosotros Park, with its skateboarding element, are certainly worthy quality of life-enhancing projects, but when is enough enough? And is such talk yet enough?

The council, which also serves as the Calexico Redevelopment Agency board, in recent weeks has set up public workshops to get public input on how RDA funds can better be spent on the community. While we're sure many who attend the workshops will fully support a complex, we're not sure anyone, including council members, have thought this through, considering a sports complex would likely require a combination of private and public funding.


In late 2000 and earlier this year the city entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement with Escondido-based For The Game LLP, a developer of city-financed sports complexes. For lack of a better term, those dealings seem to have just gone away.

We would guess the quiet disappearance of the issue was in part due to a feasibility study conducted by city consultants Urban Futures of Orange, whose representatives told the council such a facility could not realistically survive in Calexico. We, like the City Council at the time, were skeptical of the study because it didn't take into account the residents of Mexicali, who often travel to Calexico and northerly Imperial Valley cities to shop, visit family and have fun.

Still, we don't know see how a sports complex will benefit the city other than giving residents a new place to work out. There seem to be more pressing issues for Calexico, issues that a sports complex will do nothing to solve.

It seems to us RDA funds could be better used sparking economic growth in Calexico. While hundreds of jobs have been created in the city in recent years with the addition of new businesses, including the Calexico Tissue Co., the city has a long way to go.

When a city has no hospital with an emergency room and sees tens of thousands of people from across the border flood its streets, that city is going to need more police officers and more firefighters and paramedics, the latter of whom act as the first line of defense in a medical emergency.

If the city's fat RDA coffers are crying to be emptied, which seems to be the case with the way the council is looking to spend, why not spend the money on bringing in more opportunities for economic growth. It's that growth that can further bolster a city's general fund and allow a council to spend more on recreation in the long run. That's the real quality of life issue at stake.

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