The event included a plaque unveiling dedicated to Maruta Gardner, a Mission Beach educator tragically killed in 2016 by an intoxicated driver while painting out graffiti near the Mission Beach jetty.
“Maruta was involved in every aspect of the Mission Beach community – she embodied public service,” said Phylicia Cicalo-Aiken, Mission Beach Women’s Club president. “The plaque will stand as a testament honoring her work and commitment to our community for future generations and serve as a reminder of her love for Mission Beach.”
In remarks before sledgehammer-wielding construction crews and heavy equipment began toppling the existing building, Mayor Kevin Faulconer talked about its significance. He noted San Diego pioneering developer John D. Spreckels created the Plunge swimming pool as the centerpiece of Belmont Park in 1925.
“It was the largest saltwater pool in the world,” said Faulconer, adding Spreckels “generously donated it to the city” after his death.
Pointing out the storied pool was “in desperate need of repairs,” Faulconer praised developer Pacifica Enterprises for “turning Belmont Park into a world-class destination. Restoring the Plunge is going to continue that momentum.”
Noting the Plunge's restoration is “a public-private partnership if there ever was one,” Faulconer said the partnership is “making sure the Plunge is restored the right way, at no cost to taxpayers.”
After acquiring the lease to Belmont Park in 2012, Pacifica Enterprises and the City of San Diego negotiated a new lease in 2015 and entered into a partnership. Pacifica has committed to advance $5.2 million to rebuild the facility owned by the City. The company will recoup the $5.2 million through rent credits over the next seven to 10 years.
Pacifica also has agreed to pay for any cost overruns, which have been significant. The total cost to rebuild the Plunge building is approximately $11 million. The facility is scheduled to reopen in early 2019.
District 2 Councilmember Lorie Zapf gave kudos to Pacifica.
“We have witnessed Pacifica’s commitment to restoring this community gem to its historical standards and creating a world-class facility for all to enjoy,” Zapf said.
“The Plunge has been around nearly 100 years,” noted Mission Beach Town Council president Gary Wonacott. “Many of us who grew up in and around Mission Beach learned to swim at the Plunge. Our parents learned to swim there, our children learned to swim there and, in some cases, our grandchildren learned to swim there.”
Pacifica Enterprises’ plans for the Plunge include the complete restoration of the historic swimming pool, along with reconstruction of the building that surrounds it. A brand new state-of-the-art fitness center will be created on the new building's second floor operated by the nationally-acclaimed Fit Athletic Club.
Boasting a predominantly glass façade, Fit Plunge will integrate exterior light with interior coastal textures. The new building will feature a glass retractable-roof system. It will promote natural air circulation and prevent some of the deterioration issues that plagued the old building from moisture and saltwater, while incorporating some of the Spanish Renaissance architectural features seen throughout the park.
“The Plunge has been closed and in dire need of a comprehensive revitalization for far too long,” said Dario De Luca, president/COO of Pacifica Enterprises. “We are confident the revitalized swimming pool, coupled with the new athletic center as the re-imagined and reconstructed Fit Plunge, will serve as a source of great pride for the Mission Beach community for generations to come.”
Pacifica Enterprises and its construction contractor, Lusardi, began demolition of the old Plunge building in mid-January. Construction of the new building and fitness center, as well as the restoration of the Plunge swimming pool, is expected to begin later this year.