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Orange County Register (California)

 

A $50 million pool complex proposed at Irvine's Great Park could be a 2028 Olympics venue, if USA Water polo — the sport's governing body in the U.S. — and city officials can work out a deal.

Water polo officials will begin negotiating with the city to put a facility on the Irvine-owned land near an ice rink under construction that will host Anaheim Ducks practices, giving sports fans a choice of fresh or frozen water.

Similar to the city's deal for the $104 million ice rink, Irvine would lease property to USA Water Polo, which would pay to build and operate the complex. The city would be guaranteed a negotiated amount of time for the public to use the facility.

"This is a thing that the council has been talking about working on for about a decade now," Mayor Don Wagner said. "This is a venue that could be, and ideally would be, available for the 2028 Olympic Games."

USA Water Polo is based in Huntington Beach but plans to move its offices to Irvine next year. Orange County has a large concentration of water polo players, so the proposed pool complex makes sense, organization spokesman Greg Mescall said.

"There's just a lot of pluses when it comes to transportation, having great hotels, multiple airports in the area, train transit, easy driving access," and the group doesn't have a home training facility now, he said.

The men's teams practice at Long Beach State and the women's team uses the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.

If a deal is worked out, USA Water Polo could break ground for the facility by 2021. Mescall said it could also host swim competitions and community pool time, and his organization is in talks with U.S Olympic officials about including the venue in the Games.

For Wagner, the deal would offer multiple benefits. Residents often tell him the city needs more public pool facilities, and the new pool complex would attract visitors who may spend money around town, he said.

An economic study from USA Water Polo suggests a ripple effect of as much as $1 billion for the city economy over 50 years, a figure Wagner called "eye-catching."

And while many top-tier athletes have trained locally, a world-class water polo venue could offer "the opportunity, frankly, to hang the Olympic rings here in Irvine," he said.

The city and USA Water Polo have up to five months to work out an agreement, which would come back to the City Council for approval. The four-rink ice complex is expected to open in December.

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September 2, 2018
 
 
 

 

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