2004 U.S. Olympic Trials Pool Finds a Home in Yucaipa

YUCAIPA, California, November 11. THE competition pool exoskeleton from the multi-million dollar 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials facility has found a new home, but it is not quite where the average swim fan would expect to look.

Always in the shadows of the powerhouse swimmers and programs out of Orange County, the Inland Empire—a name given to the counties east of the Los Angeles area in California—has constantly fought to keep up with its coastal counterparts.

After placing two teams among the top five in Swimming World Magazine's 2008 men's high school team championships, the region gained some national recognition. Its crop of swimmers headed off to NCAA Division I schools and pushed the Redlands and Yucaipa areas further into the minds of the American aquatic followers.

Finally, with the purchase of this palatial abode, the City of Yucaipa may have the crown jewel of southern California swimming.

The idea for obtaining the facility arose in 2003. Don Harlan, who was the president of Yucaipa Swim Team, and Denise Hoyt, who was the vice president of the club, brought the idea of purchasing the pool forward to Yucaipa's mayor, Dick Riddell. Harlan encouraged Riddell and the Mayor Pro-tem, Alan Drusys, to move quickly before someone else cut a deal. It took about eight weeks for the Yucaipa city staff to negotiate a purchase agreement, which was approved shortly thereafter by a unanimous vote by the Yucaipa City Council.

The pool itself, purchased for less than $1 million in the fall of 2003, boasts a spacious interior that includes eight lanes long course and 20 lanes short course. It was broken down and shipped in one-meter stainless steel pieces to Yucaipa, Calif., in August of 2004.

When construction is completed in March, there will be new parking lots, state-of-the-art classrooms and coaches' offices, solar panels to heat the water, and six stadium lights. There is also a plan to install a wellness pool adjacent to the competition pool in the near future.

According to Hoyt, there are two entities involved with the construction of the aquatics facility. The City of Yucaipa, purchased the pool, and the San Bernardino Community College District (SBCCD) is installing it as a part of a new aquatics center at Crafton Hills College. The SBCCD is using bond money to pay for the construction costs of the natatorium.

The planning of the facility was orchestrated by a new pool committee for the college. Both Yucaipa Swim Team's head coach Jason Bradbury and Hoyt were members of the committee: Bradbury served as a student representative while Hoyt served as a faculty representative. The committee, which was established by members of the Steinberg Architect firm overseeing the project, borrowed ideas from other elite swimming facilities in southern California, ranging from bathrooms to landscaping. In October of 2008, construction commenced.

Bradbury said that while Crafton Hills College does not currently have a swim team, the institution is planning to bring aquatics-based courses, competitive swimming and water polo programs to the campus.

The Yucaipa Swim Team is also planning on using the pool in addition to the boys' and girls' water polo and swimming teams of Yucaipa High School.

Bradbury predicts that the new facility will help the team's overcrowding problems that are occurring in its current facility, a six-lane, 25-yard pool.

"We have about 200 swimmers right now," he said. "We'll probably have 150 in the winter, and that number will increase dramatically next summer. So the pool's biggest impact will be its room to hold more people."

While the project is not yet complete, Hoyt still looks at the project as a hard-fought idea that finally appears to be coming into fruition.

"The members of the Yucaipa Swim Team have been chasing their dream for a new community 50-meter pool for more than 25 years and have never given up hope," Hoyt said. "It appears as though their dream is very close to becoming a reality."

The grand opening of the facility is slated for March 2010.