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Pool groundbreaking goes swimmingly for Glendale High School

Glendale High School Aquatics Center
Glendale High School swimmers look at a rendering of the school’s future aquatics center during the Glendale High School Aquatics Center groundbreaking ceremony on campus on Tuesday.
(James Carbone)

There were so many swimming and water polo alumni present at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new aquatics center at Glendale High School Tuesday that a game or a meet could have easily broken out.

The good news for Glendale High — and the district in general — is that in 12 months a new $15.7-million facility will be able to accommodate such a situation and, more importantly, host a CIF Southern Section playoff contest or Pacific League swim final.

Glendale Unified’s board approved a $4.75-million increase in July to raise the total allocation for Glendale High School’s pool to $15.7 million.

Glendale Mayor Ara Najarian, a former Occidental College swimmer, along with Glendale Unified school board president Jennifer Freemon, district Supt. Vivian Ekchian and Glendale City Manager Yasmin Beers grabbed shovels as they joined former and current coaches and players in celebrating a project that’s been many years in the making.

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“This is all for you, your peers, individuals your age and younger, who, as a result of this incredible project, will be able to swim every day and will learn how to swim,” Ekchian said to students in the crowd.

The facility, set to be completed by October 2020, will house a 38-meter-by-25-yard pool with a depth of 6 feet, 7 inches throughout, along with locker rooms, restrooms, coaches’ offices, a concession stand and storage.

“It sounds like an odd length, but that is our CIF regulation pool,” Freemon said. “Having a pool that is the right size also means you can [host] a lot more home [meets].”

Glendale High new girls’ water polo coach Garrett Fritz, a 2015 school alumnus and member of the 2013 CIF Southern Section Division V boys’ water polo title team, said he was thrilled about the pool.

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In 2013, Fritz and Glendale High hosted first- and second-round CIF-SS playoff games at Burbank High School because Glendale’s pool was not the right size to be CIF-sanctioned.

“It’s great that the pool is going to be upgraded,” Fritz said.

Former longtime Glendale High swim coach Steve Garberson, who was first hired as an assistant junior varsity swim coach in 1980 and served 28 years as a coach, said he was still in disbelief.

“I never thought this day would come, never,” said Garberson, as he hummed the 1963 hit “Our Day Will Come” by the R&B group Ruby & the Romantics.

Garberson added while pointing to the current pool, “I am absolutely delighted to see this thing go into extinction and see a new facility replacing it. For the safety of the students and anybody who walks in there, this had to go.”

When construction company Balfour Beatty officially breaks ground with its 41-ton CAT 336 Hydraulic Excavator, that moment will mark the beginning of the end of a process that has origins before the year 2000.

To pay for the project, just a little over $9.4 million will be allocated from Measure K, a $186 million general-obligation bond passed in 1997. The remaining $6.3 million will be designated from Measure S and capital-outlay funds.

tn-gnp-me-ghs-pool-ground-breaking-20191015-2.jpg
The area of the future 2020 Glendale High School’s aquatics center pictured during the Glendale High School Aquatics Center groundbreaking ceremony on campus on Tuesday.
( James Carbone)

Glendale Unified began pool project designs with architectural firm KPI in November 2012. The project underwent a few design changes, dealt with the loss of KPI because of the unexpected death of its owner, and saw costs skyrocket.

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The pool’s estimated cost in December 2016 was $7.9 million and has doubled since then.

On top of pool upgrades, district officials also announced the school’s tennis courts will undergo an upgrade.

Initially, Glendale Unified’s school board cut $600,000 from the pool’s budget in July as part of its “value engineering” that was earmarked for tennis court resurfacing, lighting and netting.

Ekchian said the district is in the process of hammering out a joint-use agreement with the city, which is expected to cover the cost of resurfacing in exchange for public usage.

For at least one student present, the groundbreaking symbolized more than just swimming.

“We’ve had our ups and downs in the [aquatics] programs, but today it feels like it’s a great day to be a part of these programs,” said Glendale High junior Marissa Briones, a member of the swimming and water polo teams.

“I’m happy to see this moving forward, and, hopefully, I’ll get to swim in the new pool,” she added.

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