Estancia parents, coaches welcome start of planning for new aquatics center

The beginning of the planning process for a new aquatics center at Costa Mesa’s Estancia High School was met with applause this week from parents and coaches who have talked about it for two years.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District board gave the go-ahead Tuesday to start planning and authorized $6 million to build the center.

The project is expected to cost $7 million. The first $1 million was dedicated by previous board action in 2013.

“I’m so thrilled we’re moving forward with this,” said the board’s clerk, Vicki Snell. “They do have Jim Scott [Stadium, for football], but they don’t have many other things by not having the facilities to support them.”

Estancia is the only one among the district’s four comprehensive high schools that does not have an Olympic-size pool — 50 meters long (about 54 yards) and 25 yards wide.

The school currently has an L-shaped pool in which one side is 25 yards long and the other is about 27 yards long, according to John Carpenter, Estancia’s water polo and swim coach of more than 30 years.

“Only one team can practice at a time,” Estancia Aquatics Boosters treasurer Richard Rutledge said of the current pool. “It’s not a bad pool. But the bigger one would help expand the program and better serve the community.”

Estancia can host competitions with the current pool. But for swim events, it can accommodate only six lanes. The aquatics center pool could provide as many as 19 lanes, allowing bigger competitions.

Carpenter hopes a new center will enable Estancia to begin a club water polo program for community members and to host national contests for the first time.

“We’re excited that the board has taken this important step,” Estancia Principal Michael Halt said. “We look forward to working with them and other stakeholders on this so we can provide the community and the students with what they need.”

Planning and building the new facility is expected to take about two years.