NEW PROVIDENCE, New Jersey, March 6. BERKELEY Aquatic Club head coach Jim Wood, who recently served USA Swimming as president, has finally found success in what has turned out to be a decade-long fight to build a new facility to house his team.
After 10 years of trying to obtain the right from Berkeley Heights, N.J., to build a dream facility that would include a variety of pool training opportunities, and being denied time and time again, Wood adjusted his sights and landed on the town where he grew up – New Providence.
Wood has lived in New Providence for 55 years, with 45 years being in the same house, and he has definitely developed quite a strong foundation in the city. And, upon the last gasp attempt at keeping the Berkeley Aquatic Club in Berkeley Heights, which was rejected due to the city and citizens refusing Wood’s request to attach a hoped-for facility to the town’s sewer system, Wood’s New Providence friends stepped to the plate.
On Tuesday night, the new direction found final success as the town of New Providence council unanimously approved a resolution for the Berkeley Aquatic Club to build the new facility in its town. Berkeley will be converting a 40,000 square foot building that used to house the Panasonic Company into a brand new “Berkeley Center of Excellence.”
Wood had previously look at the same building in the past, but it was never for sale. In a case of coincidence working out for all involved, Panasonic recently moved their headquarters to Newark, and the building was open for a sale that went final at the end of January. Another level of coincidence is that Wood began his coaching career as a small pool just about a quarter of a mile from the building.
Less than two months later, along with the city of New Providence working through some of the zoning language to approve the location’s use for aquatics, Wood and the Berkeley Aquatic Club had a new home.
“I’d like to thank all the people that have supported and encouraged us over the past 10 years to keep moving forward to get this new pool built,” Wood told Swimming World this evening about the deal. “I would especially like to thank the folks in New Providence that had enough foresight that this will contribute to the community in the area.”
The plans are to create a new palace of swimming in the area that will house a swim school, aqua therapy pool, offices, a dryland training area, meeting rooms, and just about everything else one could think of for an aquatics center.
On top of converting the 40,000 square foot building to house 25-meter pools, as well as the swim school, aqua therapy pool and other miscellaneous aquatics equipment, Berkeley will also be building an adjacent 26,000 square foot facility to house the 50-meter pool for long course training. All told, there will be nearly $15 million invested in the project.
As opposed to major sports teams who hold cities hostage to help build their facilities, Wood and Berkeley have the entire project financed privately, including funds from a former swimmer and a swim parent.
When all is said and done, the Berkeley Center of Excellence will be the largest swimming center in the state of New Jersey. Wood will be sending out bid proposals shortly, and plans on breaking ground by this summer.