PASO ROBLES — For the better part of three decades there have been rumors that one of the North County schools was going to get a new pool — parents whispering to each other in the back row of swim meets, boosters speculating while sitting around a table at a fundraiser — but this time, it’s true.
Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, with the help of the community, will have a pool on the high school campus come next January according to Superintendent Chris Williams. PRJUSD began with a capital investment that allowed them to create the two new synthetic turf fields, the new weight room and other basic facilities and things such as paintings around the schools. In November of 2016, bond Measure M passed with 57 percent of the votes and provides $95 million to repair, acquire, equip or construct facilities in the district.
“In that bond campaign we actually put in our board resolution that there would be $5.7 million dedicated for an aquatic community complex” Williams said. “That first would serve the priority of our students within Paso Robles Joint Unified and also serve our community members so that there can be adult swimming, different club swimming, and just different opportunities for families in Paso.”
The $5.7 million covers the 50-meter pool, a second 25-yard pool, all the pool decking, some outside seating, an equipment room, and all the basic necessities to be able to host meets, which Paso Robles cannot currently do.
“In addition to that, there is also a need of an additional $1.5 million that we are out on a fundraising campaign for,” Williams said. “And the first $750,000 would provide us with a full developed restroom facility for all participants… we would also have a changing room for all the student athletes as well as additional restrooms outside next to the outside showers.”
The district looking for donors to help ensure that the aquatic center will be absolutely state-of-the-art. Before the district can break ground on April 9, the facility must first have $750,000 either pledged or already on the books.
Everything mentioned so far is a part of the first phase, or Phase A, of the plan, which includes the two restroom facilities and changing rooms. There is second phase that will cost an additional million dollars that would provide a classroom, training room and a coach’s office.
“We are looking at different funding sources such as matching funds from the state as well as looking at some Career and Tech Ed (CTE) money to be able to offset the cost of that,” Williams added.
Altogether the project will cost about $8.2 million.
“It’s going to be the best complex between Santa Barbara and San Jose,” Former swim coach Jen Brown said. “There is nothing like it. To have those two tanks next to each other, they can accommodate so many different programs.”
In addition to helping high school level student athletes, every third-grader in the district will have certified swim lessons. “...every child in California has to learn how to swim,” Brown said. “It’s not an optional thing, it is a requirement. We are around too much open water, not just the ocean, but lakes as well, and just for our community and this generation of people to be the ones that finally give that gift is an amazing experience for me.”
The aquatic center has the opportunity to have a profound impact on the community and student athletes, Williams said, adding that being able to host large swim meets will stimulate the local economy by bringing in a large amount of tourism dollars every time hundreds of families head to Paso Robles for a weekend swim meet.
The aquatic center will create jobs for lifeguards and instructors who teach the many different classes that will be available to the public, classes such as aqua aerobics, paddle board yoga, prenatal classes, parent and me classes, swim lessons and lap swimming. The pool will also create new physical education courses that were previously impossible and provide swim lessons for all of the kids in the district.
“What I am so excited about with the new pool is that usually when we have tryouts for water polo season there is barely any players trying out,” Zach Tucker said (Paso Robles’ all-time leading goal scorer in men’s water polo). “Or during swim season, there was barely any guys on the swim team last year. Now with this new pool, so many more people will want to try out and try swim sports.”
Athletes who have swum for Paso Robles in the past have missed out on performing in front of a crowd of their friends.
“This area deserves to have CIF championships,” District Athletic Director Rich Clayton added. “This area deserves to have our kids stay home and compete locally and sleep in their own beds and have people drive from all over the state to come here and also help our economy… We’re looking to fill this thing with competition from all over the state of California, but ultimately, bring them here to see our athletes. Bring recruiters here to see our kids and expose them to all the hard work that is going being done.”
“There is a lot of urgency, having less than 90 days to have the $750,000 committed,” Williams said. “We believe in our community and our folks that are going to pull along beside of us to meet the end result. We will have a pool in January of next year. Our kids deserve it and we are going to move forward with that as well.”
On Jan. 21 the district will hold its first fundraising event at Firestone-Walker Brewing from 2-4 p.m. and will have two more fundraising events before they break ground on April 9.
“Thank you to all our community members that have really stepped up and the support that we have from our swimmers and our swim community,” Williams said. “This could not have happened without a large vision and a passion.”
The district has created a website, www.swimpaso.org, that contains all the information regarding the new aquatic complex and the place to donate. Donations of any size are welcome, and those who contribute at least $1,000 will be placed on the Donor Wall which will be displayed at the entrance of the complex. Each graduating class will also have a plaque on the Donor Wall and those classes that donate the most combined money will be placed above all others. If you would like to donate, visit swimpaso.com and select the “How to Help” tab.