PASADENA — For the last three years, the only sign of activity at the Brookside Park pools has been the movement of dried leaves blowing over the broken glass and graffiti that litter the cracked concrete.
In the 1930s, the competition-size pools were the site of Olympic trials and world-class swimming exhibitions. However, the city was forced to close them in 1983 because of age and deterioration.
Although both pools are too badly damaged to restore, a group of residents hopes to replace them with a facility that could rival the pools at the University of Southern California and at Mission Viejo, which hosted the 1984 Olympic swimming competition.
The nonprofit RoseBowl Aquatics Center, whose members include Olympic swimming gold-medalist John Naber and Arroyo Seco Aquatics Club Coach Brian Murphy, has been working on the project for a year and a half and recently started to raise the $2 million needed to build a four-pool complex at the Brookside site near the Rose Bowl. So far, the group has raised about $675,000.
If all goes as planned, the group hopes to have the entire complex finished by 1988. But the important first phase of the project, which includes a 25-yard, U.S. short-course length pool and a 50-meter Olympic-size pool, could be completed as early as October, Murphy said.
Murphy said the 50-meter pool would be one of the few available to the public in the Los Angeles area and would serve not only as a major training facility for San Gabriel Valley swimmers but also as a possible site for future international competition in swimming, water polo and synchronized swimming.
"There won't be anything that will compare with it," Murphy said. "I expect, in absolute quality, it will be competitive with any pool in the world."
The chance of having a 50-meter pool to practice in year-round has been the dream of Pasadena-area swimmers for years.
Murphy said the closest comparable pools are the Rosemead Park pool, Glendale's Verdugo Swim Stadium and a pool at the Sheraton Resort at Industry Hills.
Because of the shortage of 50-meter pools, Murphy's Arroyo Seco Aquatic Club, which hopes to field up to six swimmers in the Olympic trials in 1988, has bounced back and forth between six separate pools over the the last five years.
The club now makes its home at the Rosemead pool but plans to move at the end of summer to a 25-yard pool at Pasadena City College which is cheaper to rent.
Murphy said the team's vagabond life is typical of many of the more than 80 swimming clubs in Southern California.
"It's been a ongoing, nagging problem: Where is the team going to be?" said Mark Pisano, president of the board of RoseBowl Aquatics Center. "The lack of facilities is almost unbelievable."
Although one pool is as good as the next for most recreational swimmers, Murphy said the shorter 25-yard pools, standard at most high schools and community swim areas, are inadequate for swimmers training for international competition.
The big difference is in the number of turns a swimmer must make, he said. Because a 50-meter pool is more than twice as long as a 25-yard pool, swimmers in the longer pools make fewer than half the number of turns.
"The turn is the fastest part of a race and you get to rest (during a turn)," he said. "The difference is enormous. At 50 meters, you're training future Olympians."
Naber, who won four gold medals in swimming during the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, said, "If you want to be competitive on a national or international basis, you have to train in 50-meter water. Anything smaller is like playing half-court basketball."
Naber said the 50-meter Brookside pool also would be at least two meters (a little more than six feet) deep, which is required for recognition of world records and will have underwater timing pads at each end. He said there are only a few pools in Southern California, including those at USC and Mission Viejo, where world-record times are now recognized internationally.
Suitable for Water Polo
Naber, who works as a television commentator and media consultant, said the size of the main pool also would allow water polo teams, which need a 30-meter pool, and synchronized swimmers, who need at least a 2-meter depth, to use the pool.
The Brookside complex would also include a storage room for triathletes' bicycles, a weight room, an Olympic-quality diving pool with a springboard and high dive and a wading pool.
"We don't want to have just Olympic swimmers," he said. "We want to fill the pools with a lot of programs. The list is endless."
Although the main focus is to build an Olympic-quality complex, Naber said an equally important mission is to build a facility that can be used by residents for recreation.
Don Hunt, acting director of the city's Community and Recreation Services, said a swimming complex at Brookside would ease crowding at the city's six community pools and also expand the range of recreational services available to residents.