Over 50 people participated in a recent tour of San Benito High School, showcasing athletic facilities under construction including an aquatic center featuring two pools. The tour was put on as a “Lunch and Learn” event by the school and San Benito County Chamber of Commerce.
The aquatic center is part of the $35 million Measure U fund project to construct the football and softball fields and the track and field, San Benito High School board clerk John Corrigan said. It was approved by voters in November 2016.
The high school district is constructing a 50-meter Olympic-size competition pool and a smaller, 25-yard pool designed for learning and training. People involved in the project said the pools are expected to be completed no later than June.
The competition pool has enough space for 16 lanes compared to eight in the smaller pool. Anti-slip flooring is planned for the smaller pool to allow users to walk along the bottom.
Lighting for the aquatic center will differ compared to other schools, said construction manager Rob Zimmerman. The lighting will be installed higher, at 60 feet, to avoid reflection on the water, which will allow for higher visibility in the pool. Bleachers, an equipment room and storage area are also planned, according to the facility master plan.
Because of a high turnout for the tour, the district separated visitors into three groups. The tour was led by Zimmerman, San Benito High School Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum and board clerk John Corrigan.
In Tennenbaum’s welcome speech and Corrigan’s tour of the pools, the public learned that the district aims to partner with San Benito Aquatics, a local swim group led by aquatics coach Jud Shutts, to operate the facility.
“We look forward to coordinating with San Benito Aquatics as a potential third party operator to monitor and maximize our water time,” Tennenbaum said.
Corrigan said it was important to have a partner to operate the facilities because the district “would be bad at it.”
Before the tour, Corrigan said it was important for him to be involved in the development of the aquatic center because all four of his children are swimmers and water polo players. He said four years ago his then freshman son informed him the pools had been closed indefinitely.
“That didn’t sit very well with me, and so rather than just complaining on Facebook and doing nothing, I got to work,” Corrigan said.
A group of parents mobilized and worked to reopen the big pool, Corrigan said. The group attempted to build a coalition among staff with the city of Hollister, San Benito County, San Benito High School District and private investors to build a new pool. As he pushed to pass Measure U in 2016, Corrigan also ran for San Benito High school board. He said it dawned on him that “the district doesn’t know the first thing about pools.”
“They’ll probably build one that is 24 yards by 63 meters or a circle or something with an island,” Corrigan said. “Who knew?”
Standing in the empty Olympic-size pool, Corrigan made it clear that the district’s goal is to use the aquatic center as much as possible which includes club swimming and water polo, as well as water aerobics.
“If we can’t keep it busy, we have failed,” Corrigan said.
Corrigan told BenitoLink on Jan. 10 the district wants the operator, be it San Benito Aquatics or another organization, to offer the facilities to organizations, public or private, for events such as classes or birthday parties. He also said the district wants to give the community access to the pools for recreation and maybe have events like movie nights, where swimmers can watch a movie on the LED scoreboard.
“We want people in the pool from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., or whatever is reasonable,” Corrigan said.
Originally, there were more grandiose plans for the aquatic center, which was envisioned as a community water center built alongside the high school’s previously planned pools. Early proposals included plans for a lazy river, splash pad, water slide and wave generator, but they were scaled back for a lack of local government funding. Ultimately, a geotech report discovered an earthquake fault under the proposed project site, leaving plans for a community-centered water attraction hung out to dry.
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