Danville Express

Newsfront - September 28, 2007

Aquatic center head in the water

New pool must wait for high school plans to unfold

by Natalie O'Neill

Just as momentum was picking up, efforts to build what some consider a much-needed aquatic center in Danville could come to a screeching halt.

A proposed master plan for San Ramon Valley High School would postpone the construction of a new pool about five years, a lead fundraiser told the Alamo Parks and Recreation Committee last week.

"This could delay the project indefinitely," said Tom Dewar, spokesman for the Danville Aquatic Center Steering Committee. It's difficult to gather pledges when there is so much uncertainty and the time frame is in limbo, he said.

The current pool at the high school is about 50 years old and is hanging on by a thread, supporters of the new aquatic center say. By today's standards, it's far too small to accommodate the school's water sports, let alone community use, Dewar said.

"It's the end of a life for a pool like that - an old pool like that could fall apart. It would be a disaster to have to close it," he said.

As the new master plan stands, students would receive a modernized gym, more open space in the quad area, and an additional classroom building.

It's far more efficient than what currently exists, says Paul Gardner, trustee for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and member of the district's school master plan advisory committee.

When looking at possible architectural improvements for San Ramon Valley High School, the advisory committee must look at the big picture, he said.

"At the end of the day, we look at what's best for the students in the long run," Gardner said.

Problem is, the plan may force the Aquatic Center Steering Committee to go back to the drawing board, Dewar says. Upon hearing the news in late August, at least one member of the steering committee has thrown in the towel.

Thousands of dollars in steering committee funds have already gone to coming up with a design which has the new pool built in place of the high school's existing small gym. The new master plan would change location to replace what is now the larger gym.

"The rug is being pulled out from under us," Dewar said. "We've put a lot of time and energy into (the effort) and you can't ignore that,"

There is, however, a good chance the existing pool plans can be used in the new location, Gardner said.

"I would have to believe the plans would still be good. A pool is a pool - it's a hole in the ground," he said.

About $2.5 million in pledges have already been gathered, including:

* $750,000 from the school district;

* $750,000 from the Town of Danville;

* $200,000 from the Alamo Parks and Recreation Center;

* $100,000 from the San Ramon Valley Athletic Boosters, and

* $600,000 from individuals.

Dewar, who sees installing a new pool as an urgent issue, is still hopeful. He has suggested the district do a study on the pool's underground piping. And he believes the study would illustrate that five years is too long a period to wait for a replacement.

A swimmer recently snagged her leg on jagged old tiles on the edge of the pool and had to get 13 stitches, Dewar pointed out. Tiling on the outside edge of the pool is so old that it is no longer manufactured.

The district will address safety and maintenance issues with the pool as they arise, Gardner said, adding that the pool is already monitored closely.

The expected cost for the aquatic center was bumped from an original $2.4 million to $3.8 million last month.

Both Danville and Alamo mandated that the total funds raised for the pool must be secured by Dec. 31. Last week, Alamo Parks and Recreation Committee told Dewar to return in December to discuss the issue further.

"The offer is still on the table. We'll see how this impacts things," said Steve Mick, head of the Alamo Parks and Recreation Committee.


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