NATIONAL CITY, Calif. - National City is on the verge of opening its first aquatic center.
The $5 million National City Aquatic Center took years to come to fruition. Visitors will be able to rent a variety of watercraft once it opens later this summer.
The city is still searching for an operator, but Southwestern College appears to be the leading contender.
"If that works out, I think that would be awesome," said National City Mayor Ron Morrison. "I think it would be a great opportunity for the city and for the college."
It would be a happy beginning for a facility that was hard to get off the ground.
"To get anything down here for National City has been a huge struggle for decades," said Morrison.
The center isn't on San Diego Bay; it is located on a flood control channel that leads to the bay. It's been a source of frustration for Morrison and residents.
"It's kind of messed up," said resident Luis Nuno. "Most people conform to it because that's the way it has been for a long time, but honestly [National City] should have access to the bay as well."
The public has no direct access to San Diego Bay even though the city limits has 3.2 miles of bayfront property. Morrison said it's the only city on the West Coast without direct access to its waterfront.
"It's basically all industrial, it's maritime, it's behind barbed wire," said Morrison. "There's frustration, but I think you have to deal with what reality is, too."
The reality is National City's maritime industry makes money for the Unified Port of San Diego. 10News learned 400,000 new cars were unloaded off ships on National City's docks last year.
"Their new business plan is trying to look at going up to 800,000 cars," said Morrison.
That means National City probably won't see the bay unless it rents a boat from its own aquatic center.
In the meantime, Morrison said the Port and National City were working out a land swap that could add an acre to Pepper Park and give the maritime industry an additional five acres farther north.