Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve to Add New Bar, Grill and Dining Deck in 2021

Construction on the $8.8 million project is currently underway and will be completed in three phases by the spring of 2021

A brand-new grill and a dining deck with lakefront views are being built in San Diego’s East County as part of a plan to keep a Santee landmark fresh over the next 20 years.

Over at Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve – specifically, Lake 4 near the General Store where many families like to feed the ducks – you’ll find a lot of construction these days and, as a result, the volunteer-staffed Waterfront Grill is closed.

Banners line the construction area showing what’s coming: a new bar and grill and dining deck, all set to be completed by the spring of 2021.

Photos: Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve to Add New Bar, Grill and Dining Deck in 2021

Laura Koval, director of park and recreation for Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve, told NBC 7 the construction project broke ground about seven months ago.

When it’s finished, the dining deck will feature seating for 150 people.

Koval said the plan is for the new bar and grill to be open seven days a week, offering a “great coffee menu selection, unique grill items, and a few local microbrews.”

She said a food vendor for the grill has not yet been chosen, but Santee Lakes is accepting information from vendors that may be interested in eventually running the dining facility. Those bids from vendors are due by Jan. 31.

A rendering of a new dining deck under construction at Santee Lakes
Rendering Courtesy of Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve

According to Koval, the overall project will cost $8.8 million. Santee Lakes is owned and operated by Padre Dam Municipal Water District and Koval said the self-sufficient preserve receives no rate payer or tax payer subsidies. All park operations, including this project, are funded by fees collected from visitors of the park and its campground, she told NBC 7.

Koval has been spearheading the planning of this project since 2015 when she formed a team to help carry out the park’s “Dynamic Vision Plan,” or DVP.

“The DVP is a vision for the park over the next 20 years,” Koval explained. “The plan is dynamic so that it may adjust to the needs of customers, the community and park staff over time.”

Koval said this is the second project at Santee Lakes to stem from the DVP. The first was a $1.7 million park improvement project on the west side of Lake 2 and Lake 3, completed in August 2017.

According to Koval, this project will be completed in three phases to keep the park offices and general store operational throughout construction.

As of Jan. 1, Koval said phase one of the project – which involves the complete demolition and replacement of the park’s administration building – was 65% completed. The building is expected to be completed by this April.

Phase 2 – the construction of the dining deck over Lake 4 – is currently 5% completed. She said the main concrete and steel structure for this phase will be built over the course of this month and next month. In addition to seating for 150, that deck will be able to be configured to accommodate up to 300 guests for special events.

Meanwhile, phase 3 will involve remodeling the park’s General Store and adding the 600-square-foot kitchen. During that phase, the General Store will be temporarily relocated to the adjacent Events Center building, Koval said. That building will also get a new roof, doors and windows during the home stretch of the project.

Koval said this project is critical to the future of Santee Lakes, which attracts more than 750,000 visitors each year.

“As part of the identity of the City of Santee and one of the most popular tourist attractions in East County, this project will ensure Santee Lakes remains a premier destination,” she added.

Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve is located at 9310 Fanita Parkway in Santee and hosts many of Santee’s big events throughout the year.

The 190-acre park features seven lakes filled with recycled water and stocked with sport fish year-round.

Santee Lakes also boasts several playgrounds, a splash pad that’s open on those hot East County summer days, and a campground that includes campsites and cabin rentals.

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