TWENTYNINE PALMS — The debate over whether to include a gymnasium space in the community center which will become the centerpiece of the city’s Project Phoenix redevelopment project continued at the city council meeting Tuesday, July 23, as an October deadline loomed.

City officials are planing to build the community center on the south side of Twentynine Palms Highway between Yucca Avenue and Smoke Tree Avenue.

Plans include meeting rooms, multi-purpose rooms, a kitchen and a gift shop.

Council members and those in the audience were shown a revised floor plan for the proposed structure, in which the space that had been set aside for a gymnasium has become a multi-purpose room, which can be divided into four separate rooms, where basketball can be played.

Not satisfied with that, Jim Krushat, who said he was speaking as a private citizen and not a member of the planning commission, provided a community center design of his own, one not providing space for basketball games.

“If we could afford everything, we could have the community/conference center and a gymnasium;however we don’t have the funding for everything,” he said in a memorandum handed out during the meeting.

City Manager Frank Luckino reminded everyone that council members will need to make a final decision on the building’s basic design in October in order to keep the project on its current timeline.

Design changes made after that, he warned, will become more expensive.

“The next decision point is in October,” he said. “In October, when we come back, that’s when we have to nail it down.”

Mayor Steve Bilderain wanted to make sure local vendors got work when construction began.

“When available there will be a local vendor preference,” Luckino said.

Former Twentynine Palms High School basketball coach Larry Bowden said more gym space is needed, adding that community basketball teams face an ongoing shortage of places to practice out of the heat and cold.

“A gymnasium in downtown Twentynine Palms is stupid,” resident Vickie Waite said. She noted that neither of her two children was involved with athletics but both were involved with the arts.

“They would love to have a larger space to perform,” she said.

“I am talking economic development,” she said, adding that she wants the community center to be a draw for out of town organizations looking for meeting space.

“It still does not address the needs of the community,” Karalee Hargrove said of the revised plans. “How important is it to look at sports, sports, sports, sports?”

D.J. Garrett, the mother of Wildcat basketball players Lindsey and Taylor Scamman, urged residents to drive by Luckie Park and see the large numbers of young people using the outdoor basketball courts there to improve their skills.

She talked about Lindsey, now a West Point cadet, playing basketball at the park in all kinds of weather.

“She played basketball in the rain, she played basketball in the heat,” she said.

“I want to do more study,” Bilderain said near the end of the public hearing. “Maybe we can do a lot more than we think.”

“I want to keep the gymnasium aspect of it,” council member Joel Klink said. “I think we can have a lot more adult league go into it.”

(7) comments

Branson Hunter

The most important aspect is the KITCHEN. In terms of emergencies and feared acts of nature, there is no reason for it not be large, professionally equipped, and ready for disasters to feed firefighters, sheriffs, CHP, CERT, the council, staff and others. A gym is the least important to the entire. Councilmember Klink is thinking in the box and is lax in terms of keeping a vigilant eyes open on the project's budget. THis was an informative article. Do we all have to be reminded we can't have all the pie in the sky.


I agree something for emergencies like a kitchen makes sense and a cooling center that has solar with battery power would be vital to the community. But what happened to all the talk of a revamped library on the site? They seems to have fallen off the radar. Meanwhile its more sports that seems to be getting the nod, which no coincidence, happens to have a lot more male followers than females. Rather than just another basketball court, yawn, how about artist's workshops. There are a number of artists in the area, we probably have more artists than basketball players. This sort of thing, basketball courts wanted by a minorty of jocks that does not represent the city, is why Joshua Tree gets the tourists and we get ignored.


Right now the Helen Gray Center is no longer giving breaks to the local communities and they have upped their fees. The City Council should be cognizant of what their constituents wants and needs are. Right now it looks like they have a personal agenda to force on to the citizens of 29 Palms, who elect them, yet they do not listen. We do not need another gymnasium, we need conference and meeting space that will also generate revenue for the City. There is such a need for this type as there is little in the Morongo Valley right now to support conferences and meetings and that also has a kitchen for catering. WAKE UP CITY COUNCIL and listen to your citizens for once.

Branson Hunter

With a little ‘tongue and cheek’ steeped in reality, it may render down to a choice of investing public funds in the Theater 29's expansion, outdoor forum and modernization -- or including a gym in the downtown project plans. For ten years the downtown project and bond funds stalled for a need of more and more funds and leadership indecisiveness. How about adding a skate and ice rink for the village? There is plenty of pie in the sky projects we can wish the taxpayers could pay for. Hey, we are a small community so constructive criticism isn’t something we hear very often when it comes to local elected officials. Conversely, two hundred and thirty years ago Mr. Jefferson and his associates encourages those sort of things.


What the City Staff displayed at the Council meeting and what the article describes (meeting rooms, multipurpose room, kitchen, etc.) is the design that we cannot afford. The City has approximately $11.8M for site infrastructure (utilities, package treatment plant, street/parking lot improvements, etc.) and building construction. The proposed Joshua Tree National Park Visitor/Cultural Center will be constructed using separate grant funding (if we get it). The site infrastructure will cost approximately a little over half of the funding on hand leaving about $ 5.5 M for the Building. Calling a Building that has 24 foot high ceilings with two retractable basketball goals and a floor with a basketball court outline a multi-purpose building is a bit of a misnomer. Calling the gymnasium a multi-purpose building is confusing to the residents of Twentynine Palms. All of the residents do not attend the planning meetings and review the concept drawings. Therefore, when they read or hear about it (Desert Trail, Staff Reports, local radio) and it’s described as a multi-purpose building, everyone will have a different concept of what constitutes a multi-purpose building. If you want a gymnasium, argue for a gymnasium, don’t hide behind another name (playing with semantics). Yes, a gymnasium can be used for other events, but it is not optimal for those events. If we could afford everything that would be great, but we can't afford everything. After the Joint City Council/Planning Commission meeting on 10 July 2019 it was evident that the City Council and Staff were not going to address many of the inputs from the community and that became even more evident at the City Council meeting on 23 July 2019. We are going to have a great downtown and we need venues to support this new downtown area. We need a first class Community /Conference Center with meeting/conference rooms that can host a variety of events. This will help market the downtown and the City of 29 Palms. A gymnasium would be nice to have, but it's not critical to the future of Twentynine Palms. We should be putting the funding toward a building that serves the entire community and not a building the fulfills the desires of the few.


I have witnessed the paralysis the city council has demonstrated over the last 9 years and almost going on 10.

I was there when the original idea of Project Phoenix was birthed. it was a plan to change an inner city infrastructure that was decaying at an accelerated pace.

Then came the change of city managers and council members as well as special interest groups that altered the simplicity of the original concept.

There are now only two of the original council members that know what I am talking about. Under their leadership nothing has been done to propel Project Phoenix into a reality. What they have accomplished is the flattening of buildings and the construction of empty lots under the guise of moving a 10 year old project forward into reality.

Little is said of how the 11.1 million to actually build something in 2010 is gone. Less is even said about the diversion of property tax dollars to pay off the 30 year bond debt that Klink and Mintz incurred for us all.

So now the discussions of Project Phoenix have devolved to a gymnasium. With those discussions more and more influential citizens of 29 Palms are finding issues with the positions of Klink and Mintz as those positions relate to the best interests of the citizens and the city.

An election is coming in the near future that could change the dynamics of the council by removing the most culpable council member to this fiasco.

It is time for Joel Klink to move on into the realm of being a citizen.

I knew him well when he first came to the council and why he came to the council however over the years his philosophy and purpose has become degraded and ineffective.

I wish the Krushat's and Waite's and the other influencers of the city well in their desire to move the council in a direction of change and leadership and not to the same old repetitive actions to support the small special interest groups that are so ever active yet represent oh so ever few.

Branson Hunter

Thank you Spearman for your input. They always educate and inform. I remember a number of years ago Mintz and klink push very hard for a subterranean state-of-the-art Performing Arts Theater in a floodplain. That was a foolhardy plan but it tells more about a need for a new direction for this little city

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