Campus announces plans to construct new aquatics center

UC Berkeley announced plans for a new aquatics facility, to be located adjacent to the Tang Center, on Wednesday.
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UC Berkeley announced plans for a new aquatics facility, to be located adjacent to the Tang Center, on Wednesday.

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UC Berkeley announced plans for the construction of a new multimillion-dollar aquatics facility to alleviate overcrowding and provide more training space for athletes.

A public hearing took place on Wednesday regarding the construction of the $15 million aquatics center, which was proposed to address concerns of inadequate swimming facilities on campus. The Spieker Aquatics Complex, UC Berkeley’s only aquatic center, is used by NCAA athletes as well as community swimmers, students in physical-education classes and postgraduates.

“Currently, (users of the facility) share one pool for all training and competition at Spieker, which … puts pressure on the facility seven days a week,” said Herb Benenson, spokesperson for intercollegiate athletics. “These scheduling challenges reduce the availability for all who want to swim at Spieker.”

The new facility will be used for athletic training purposes only but will take much of the pressure off the Spieker Aquatics Complex to accommodate too many swimmers, according to the intercollegiate athletics website.

The proposed location for the new facility is a university-owned parking lot next to the Tang Center. If the proposal is approved, the parking lot will be destroyed and replaced with the campus’s second aquatics center.

“The location is important for its proximity to Spieker pool,” said Jennifer McDougall, the principal planner responsible for review of the project under the California Environmental Quality Act. “The near-campus location helps meet project goals to reduce scheduling stress on student athletes.”

The proposal of replacing the parking lot is problematic, however, because the project is not strictly consistent with the city’s Southside Plan, a plan passed in 2011 to revitalize the area south of campus. Those who regularly park in the lot will have fewer spaces available to them and will have to consider alternatives to driving to campus or find parking elsewhere, according to McDougall.

The aquatics facility project is entirely funded by Cal Aquatic Legends, an independent nonprofit donor group founded to raise money for the project. The group will handle the building of the facility, overseeing the entire process from architectural plans to actual construction on the university-granted land, unlike similar projects typically controlled entirely by the campus.

“The facility is basically an exceedingly generous, in-kind gift,” McDougall said.

The public has the opportunity to submit commentary on the project’s Environmental Impact Report and its compliance with the Southside Plan until April 24. The UC Board of Regents will review the report and will have a chance to approve the project at its meeting in May.

“A new pool will provide the time, flexibility and space the Golden Bear teams need to continue to achieve at such a high level,” Benenson said. “The fact that Cal’s aquatic teams and so many individuals continue to excel is a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to their perseverance and the abilities of the coaching staff.”

Contact Claire Chiara at cchiar[email protected].

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