DISCOVERY BAY -- The Delta town with the slogan "Live where you play," finally has a hub for residents to do just that.

After over two decades of stalled attempts to nail down a community center site, Discovery Bay sealed the deal last week on a land purchase for over 7 acres that includes the ready-made pieces for a recreation hub. The town's Community Services District purchased its portion of the property for $810,000.

Among the existing amenities on the new Discovery Bay Community Center property, formerly private Discovery Bay Athletic Club, are a swimming pool, tennis courts, a basketball court, playground area and a 5.25 acre center. Fitness equipment fills much of the well-worn center, which will remain the same at least through June 30.

"It's great to actually have it, so we can start offering different services," board president Ray Tetreault said. "A lot had been said (over the years) about it's never going to happen. So, now that it's happened, it's very cool."

Town leaders envision the center as a place where classes and social functions for all ages can held. Discovery Bay is holding its Earth Day on the grounds April 20, while Committee Center committee member Jim Mattison envisions having Farmers Markets there on Saturday mornings this summer.

"We're trying to bring in a lot of neat stuff," Mattison said. "Now, we have something tangible, we want to invite the community to actually see a facility and the things we will be able to do in the future."

Bingo games, wedding banquets, wine and jazz festivals, bounce house parties, swimming lesson, cooking classes, senior dance, and Zumba are among the many possible uses envisioned for the center.

The community center idea for the growing Delta town dates back to the mid 1980's, as Discovery Bay had no public meeting places except for the elementary school. As part of a development approval for Discovery Bay West in 1991, Hofmann Co. agreed to provide land for the center and pay for half of its cost. The community would cover the other half.

When Hoffman was ready to pull home permits after some delay, the community had not raised its portion of the funds, said Catherine Kutsuris, the county's director of conservation and development.

The company placed $600,000 into a bond reserved for the center in 1996, as after looking at potential site plans it was reasonably assumed that a center would cost $1.2 million. That escalating account is now up to $900,000, Kutsuris said.

Possible center locations also have changed often over the years; including at the town's "entrance" at Highway 4 and Discovery Bay Boulevard, an empty field where a gas station once sat at Discovery Bay Boulevard and Sand Point Road, a three acre vacant piece of land off Bixler Road near Timber Point Elementary -- even the idea of a boat came up in 2003 before quickly sinking.

The Athletic Club site was identified by the community on three separate occasions, but each time the near $4 million price tag was too high.

"It has almost been like chasing a rainbow," said Virgil Koehne, the district's water and wastewater manager. The longtime resident and former town manager was at the center Friday to check on work to replace a broken water line in the parking lot.

"It was one of those things that made you say 'I'll believe it when I see it,'" said 20-year resident Glen Edwards while on a treadmill at the center. "It's good to have in the community."

Many people interviewed throughout the community, though some expressed concern at how quickly the deal seemed to happen.

About two years ago, the community center idea picked up steam again. Along with conducting an online survey to collect residential input, the district found that the Athletic Club was willing to sell at a "reasonable price," Mattison said.

Despite the purchase, several issues must be addressed -- including how to pay for ongoing costs

For its short-term fixes, the district is using money from Zone 8, a lighting and landscaping district, to give the building a good cleaning inside, improve the parking lot, and new pumps and filters in the pool and address other risk management issues.

Discovery Bay must also resolve the 1991 agreement with Hofmann and the county. It can run the new building as a community center, but until a deal is struck it would not be eligible for the $900,000.

The parties continue to meet to negotiate a deal, Kutsuris said.

The town's initiative on pushing forward with the property purchase and willingness to take ownership could be significant, she said.

"It changes the discussion a bit. It's far easier to come to an agreement when everyone knows what's been talked about, " Kutsuris said.

Contact Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164. Follow him at Twitter.com/paulburgarino.

FREE TRIAL
The Discovery Bay Community Services District is opening up the new Community Center free of charge to anyone through the end of February. Town officials said the goal is to encourage residents to see what the center can offer. The center will be closed from 9 a.m. Thursday to 7 a.m. Saturday for repaid and carpet cleaning. For information, call the town offices at 925-634-1131.