A new timeline of tasks to be completed before construction of the North Domingo Baca Aquatics Center can begin was released last month, with groundbreaking likely to take place in August of next year. The new schedule was published on the BUILD ABQ Aquatic Center @ North Domingo Baca Park Facebook group Aug. 29.
John Adams Ingram, administer for the group, reached out to District 4 City Councilor Brook Bassan Aug. 25 asking for an update on the aquatic center’s full design phase. Bassan responded with the new timeline, titled “North Domingo Baca Aquatic Center Revised Design Schedule”, which shows the five-month bidding and negotiations phase beginning in March of next year and a pre-construction conference to take place in August.
“As is listed on the timeline, a groundbreaking is likely to occur August 2023,” Bassan wrote in an email. “I also reiterate that I am hopeful this timeline will stay on target, but will not be surprised if there is some delays because it seems realistic to anticipate such.”
A 2021 Huitt-Zollars site analysis shows the city plans to build the aquatic center on the 4.59-acre dirt lot just west of the upper parking lot at North Domingo Baca Park. The analysis shows there are plans for a 50-meter, eight-lane competition pool, a 25-yard warm-up/therapy pool and an outdoor recreation pool with two water slides and a 25-yard, four-lane pool. A new 76-car parking area is also slated to be constructed on the south side of the aquatic center, between the tennis courts and multigenerational center.
The estimated cost of the aquatic center is $32 million, which Bassan says has been fully secured. “I am realistic in understanding that inflation has a possibility of affecting this project. This is another reason we need to move accurately and swiftly,” Bassan said.
Kelly Harrell, a group leader for the Citizens for NDB Aquatic Center, said a swimming pool is long overdue. “Our working group has seen that there’s a lot of aquatics inequality in the far Northeast Heights and even the far northeast metro area. Students living in this area have to drive to Highland or when they fit in, at West Mesa. So, it’s really been an unfortunate situation for kids for over two decades,” Harrell said.
She said without a nearby competitive training venue, student athletes are at a disadvantage. “Kids that can’t afford a vehicle or don’t have a reliable ride have been unable to participate in aquatics and it cuts them out for college scholarships.” Harrell said the citizen’s group reached out to the community to see what was needed and how an aquatics center could fill some of the gaps on the northeast side of the city. “They told us loud and clear they need a larger pool,” she said. “What they really needed was a 50-meter pool that allows them to have greater endurance training. To advance in races, they need a different kind of pool, especially for competitive, but also for recreational. There’s just not enough space in the public pools.”
In addition to providing a training venue for student swimmers, Harrell said the aquatics center has the potential to generate revenue for surrounding businesses. “The Senior Olympics can have swimming right here,” she said, adding that with Balloon Fiesta Park nearby, an aquatics center can help bring sports tourism to the area. “It’s well designed to serve everyone. The infrastructure is in place, and it will benefit a lot of local businesses, restaurants and hotels. This is what people want,” Harrell said.
Although the aquatics center is taking longer to bring to life than the citizen’s group had hoped, they are happy the project is moving forward. “Given we only had $3 million when we began, we’re pretty excited,” Harrell said. “We’re willing to wait to get something that works for everyone. The citizen’s group is fine to wait for this timeline. We want the right thing to be built that is going to meet the needs of everyone.”
Adams agrees the timeline is further out than many had hoped for but remains optimistic. “Far Northeast Heights homeowners and renters have been working on building this new Aquatic Center Olympic Pool at Domingo Baca Park since 2005,” Adams wrote in a direct message. “Thanks to ABQ bond voters, NM State Legislators, and City of ABQ Councilors, we are finally moving forward with a full design phase. Of course it’s taken much too long, but ‘better late than never’, as my Grandmother Adams used to say.”
As far as the final design goes, Harrell said details can shift including the proposed diving area, but it is still a moving target. Bassan added that architects will continue to work on different design options. “There are no new published renderings for the aquatic center other than what we have so far,” Bassan said. “The architects are working on the next steps, but there is nothing to show as of yet. I am very excited this project is finally moving forward and is taking shape more than ever before.”