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Olympic Pool at Brookside Park to Open With a Splash

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Terry Wilson got his first dip last week in the brand-new Amateur Athletic Foundation Rose Bowl Aquatics Center’s Olympic pool, which stretches like a vast, shimmering carpet across a corner of Brookside Park.

It was a crowning moment for Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the facility. He had watched for a year and a half as the the site was transformed from an empty, weed-clogged lot with a fence around it to a $6.5-million swimming facility.

“The water had been glistening out there for a week,” Wilson said the other day, surveying the 50-meter Olympic pool and its companion diving pool. “Finally, I said: ‘I’m just going to have to go out and try it.’ ”

So? This pool is fast, Wilson said. That’s right, fast. It’s 6 feet, 7 inches deep, from end to end, and the water is kept at a constant spill-over level. “So there’s no lapping against the sides, with waves coming back to create friction against the swimmer,” Wilson said.

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Wilson, 32, a former Pasadenan who starred on the 1974-'75 Pasadena High School basketball team, was overseeing the finishing touches on the aquatics center last week, huddling with construction foremen, taking job applications from teen-agers, making arrangements for next weekend’s opening water festival.

The public will be invited to watch diving and synchronized swimming exhibitions there on Saturday and Sunday and to sign up for the summer program, he said. The gala opening, with a keynote address by Peter V. Ueberroth, will be June 24.

It’s a festive-looking sight, this swimming facility with its teal and coral clubhouse and bulwarks (“ ‘Miami Vice ' colors,” Wilson calls them), its two glassy-smooth central pools and its wading pool and spas.

But the program is a serious one. “Don’t equate it with just splashing in the water,” Wilson said. “Our goal is to get kids involved in competitive programs.”

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The center abuts Pasadena’s predominantly black Northwest neighborhood, and minorities will be given special encouragement to participate in competitive sports.

“Swimming has traditionally been an upper-class, country club sport,” said Wilson, a regional sales manager for a news wire service before taking on his present job. At least 10% of the participants in competitive swimming at the center will be low-income youngsters, subsidized by the center, he said.

There’s a long, spotty history to swimming in Pasadena. The new aquatics center--funded by the city of Pasadena and more than 100 corporations and foundations--replaces the city’s Brookside Plunge, a swimming pool closed in 1983. The center will offer a range of swimming activities, from instruction for beginners to preparation for the Olympics, as well as recreational swimming.

Old-timers in Pasadena remember it as a place where blacks were allowed in once a week, on “international day,” after which the pools were drained. Wilson himself remembers “The Plunge,” which was used for water polo competition during the 1932 Olympics, as a down-at-the-heels swimming pool, where local children could go to cool off for a quarter.

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“There was an eight-meter-high wooden platform, which you could dive off of,” he said. “By 1983, the pool had been drained and weeds were growing out of it. It had become a blight on the south end of Brookside Park.”

The new aquatics center already has local youngsters circling hungrily. They get their chance on June 25, when the summer program begins.


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