Planning Begins for $15 Million Aquatic Center Along the Delta in Stockton


Hannah Workman or on Twitter @byhannahworkman

Published 2:15 a.m. PT May 30, 2023, The Stockton Record


STOCKTON, CA – Don’t fire up those Sea-Doos yet, but the time is getting closer with the help of a big grant.

A $2.5 million investment from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy will help bring a new public aquatic center to Stockton.

Leaders of the San Joaquin Community Foundation were joined last week by public officials at the Stockton Sailing Club to announce the three-year planning grant — money from the Delta Conservancy were made possible by the Budget Acts of 2021 and 2022, which provided the Delta Conservancy with one-time allocations of $5.25 million and $6.1 million for projects that support climate resilience, community access, and natural resource protection activities that benefit the Delta.

Louis Ponick, Community Foundation’s director of donor relations, said most of the grant money would be used to pay architects and engineers and pay for fees and permits associated with building the aquatic center.

“Our role in this project is as the fiscal sponsor for the Delta Aquatics Center,” Ponick said. “What that means is not that the San Joaquin Community Foundation is building an aquatics center … it means that we are sponsoring this project so that the community can provide input into the design and planning process to bring an aquatics center here to Stockton.”

There isn’t an ideal location for the aquatic center, according to Ponick. Four sites are under consideration. They include properties along the San Joaquin River, the Smith Canal, and the Calaveras River. Planners will be tasked with identifying the best site to house the aquatics center. They’re seeking input from community members on what activities should be offered.

“One thing I should clarify is what is an aquatics center. It is not going to be a building with swimming pools, which I think comes to mind for most people when they hear ‘aquatics center,'” Ponick said. “This is going to be a riverfront facility that provides access to the Delta for human-powered watercraft activities … think paddleboards, kayaks, basically anything without a motor.”

He added that the center would provide Stockton residents with more opportunities to get outdoors and exercise.

“The cornerstone for this is improving community health,” Ponick said, “that’s why we’re out here.”

While Congressman Josh Harder (D-Tracy) didn’t attend the grant announcement, district director Rhodesia Ransom read a statement on his behalf.

“This opportunity is exactly why we’ve been fighting so hard to save the Delta in DC and here in the Valley,” Ransom said. “To improve the healthy of our community, to make us safer, to protect our water … I am in complete support of this opportunity that will give our families a place to thrive, to work, and to play.”

The facility will also house the Delta Sculling Center, which offers programs for disadvantaged, disabled, and youth populations.

Tricia Canton, a Stockton native and junior athlete at the Delta Sculling Center, said she never spent time near water as an adolescent. But then she started attending school at UC

Irvine and lived in southern California for more than a decade. There she developed an affinity for water.

“Being so close to the ocean, I frequently went to the beach, and I absolutely fell in love with the water,” Canton said. “Two days before my life drastically changed, I went standup paddleboarding at Newport Beach, and then on May 12, 2014, I suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and a grand mal seizure that nearly killed me.”

Canton said she was in a coma for nearly a month, and doctors told her family that if she survived, she wouldn’t be able to eat, talk, walk, or even breathe independently.

“I beat every prognosis that they gave me, but the effects were still disastrous,” she said.

Canton moved back to Stockton so her parents could care for her, and her primary care physician recommended that she become involved in the Delta Sculling Center’s program.

“Coming back here, I never imagined that I would get to enjoy the water again, especially while batting disabilities,” she said. “But then I contacted coach Pat (Delta Sculling Center director Pat Tirone), and she set up a time for me to come out … they have the equipment necessary, and the knowledge, and the kindness to help people like myself who battle limitations to be able to get out and enjoy the water again.”

Tirone said she looks forward to increasing the Delta Sculling Center’s bandwidth — and seeing a new facility that can attract more people to Stockton, including championship events.

“A new float house in Petaluma offers teen activities and events that have made their waterfront the centerpiece of their city,” Tirone said. “Our waterways will similarly be the gem of Stockton, that will be accessible to all Stockton residents and visitors to our beloved city.”

Organizers said the total cost to build the facility is estimated at $15 million. They will seek the remaining money from public, private and corporate sectors to complete the project.

Record reporter Hannah Workman covers news in Stockton and San Joaquin County. Support local news, subscribe to The Stockton Record at