The La Cañada Unified School District is taking a new tack in its long-standing efforts to improve the pool at La Cañada High School.
After years of discussions about building a new pool to be financed in part by the city and used by both the school and the community at large, the district is exploring a less expensive and less ambitious option.
The plan calls for the existing L-shaped pool to be filled out into a full rectangle, and for a private-sector lender to pay upfront costs the district will then repay. The proposed pool would be large enough to meet California Interscholastic Federation regulations for hosting water polo matches and tournaments, something La Cañada High has never been able to do.
La Cañada board of education member Joel Peterson said the pool could be expanded for between $1 million and $1.5 million, while the price tag for a larger new pool has been estimated at $3.25 million.
Jeff Olson, who has a son on the La Cañada High water polo team and has filled in as coach, has worked on the district's effort to build a new pool since 2008.
He said without a pool that is a CIF-mandated 25 yards by 20 yards, the Spartans have a tough road.
“It's kind of like practicing at a half court in basketball,” Olson said. “It puts us at a real disadvantage when we play teams that practice in a big pool.”
The current pool is 25 yards by 20 yards in its widest portion, but is only 14 yards wide for much of its length. The school rents the Pasadena City College pool to host non-league and playoff games.
School district officials hope to use revenue from fees charged on new construction in La Cañada to fund the construction, Peterson said.
Those fees net the district $200,000 to $400,000 a year, and Peterson said the district is seeking a lender to front the construction cost in exchange for a cut of future developer fees.
The district cannot tap any of the $25 million in bond funds it received in from 2004's Measure B because the pool wasn't on the original list of bond projects.
In 2008 the district proposed a joint-use pool, hoping the city would use its reserves to pay the up-front costs.
Talks were revived again this year. But after a July 2 City Council study session, Peterson said the district realized the city might not be the ideal partner.
“There are a lot of issues from their perspective,” he said. “This would tie up these monies for a very long time, and they have to decide if this is the best use of these resources for the community as a whole.”
City Manager Mark Alexander said the city was still evaluating the district's proposal when it learned school officials were going to seek private funding.
“The city is standing by, and we will continue our analysis when the school board approaches us as part of a next-phase review,” he said.
According to a city report, a new pool would have to be 40 yards long by 25 yards wide to have capacity for school and community use.
“If we don't need the city to be involved, then it doesn't need to be as big, so then we can hold costs down,” Peterson said.
Peterson said the district aims to have potential lenders review its proposal by the end of summer, so the school board would have a decision in front of it at the beginning of the school year.
Olson said aquatic sports are strong at La Cañada High and deserve an appropriate pool.
“It's a program that's used to a lot of success,” he said.
“The better we make our facilities, we'll just be even stronger.”