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The Best Places to Play : If You're Involved With a Spring Sport, These Facilities Are Where You Want to Be

June 03, 1997|ERIK HAMILTON

These are the venues that are often taken for granted.

They may not be perfect, but they are certainly rich in character, style or story. If they're not the best facilities available for Orange County high school athletic programs, they're certainly not the worst.

Swimming and Diving Mission Viejo

Swimmers and divers who have competed in these waters are among the finest in their sports. And when the Mission Viejo Marguerite Recreation Center was built in 1972, it was praised by competitors and coaches as one of the world's premier swimming and diving facilities.

When it opened, the 50-meter Olympic-size pool, along with the 25-yard warm-up pool and diving well, was hailed as a state-of-the-art facility that included racing lanes nine feet wide that were separated by anti-wake racing lane dividers. The pool has 1 1/2-foot wash-out lanes bordering lanes 1 and 8 and gutters that border the entire pool to reduce choppy water.

The diving facility--which includes a diving tower with five-, 7 1/2- and 10-meter platforms, two three-meter boards and two one-meter boards--has been the site of numerous national and international competitions.

The pool also is equipped with a Colorado Timing system, which provides timing to .001 seconds.

The facility was built by the Mission Viejo Co. for $500,000. But to get an idea on how much it would cost today to build the same facility, when Corona del Mar High built its 50-meter pool in 1990, it cost $1.7 million.

Since it opened, the facility has been the home of the Mission Viejo Nadadores swim club, which has accumulated 14 national team championships. The team's swimmers and divers have won more than 40 Olympic medals.

The Nadadores had almost exclusive use of the pool until 1991, when the Mission Viejo Co. withdrew its sponsorship of the team. That sponsorship was worth approximately $750,000 and covered yearly maintenance of the facility.

The Mission Viejo Co. traded the swimming and diving facility, along with several other recreational centers, to the city for two office buildings. But when city officials were unable to find any businesses interested in leasing the facility, the city was looking at an annual maintenance cost of $250,000, and was faced with the possibilities of closing the facility. But the Nadadores and the city eventually reached a 10-year agreement on the pool in April 1994.

Under that agreement, the Nadadores remain the primary user. However, since the facility is now owned by the city, the pool has been opened to things such as public lap swimming, public swim programs and occasional use by local high schools.

When Santa Margarita High recently competed at the complex in a triangular meet with Mission Viejo and Foothill highs, Santa Margarita Coach Rick Rowland was ecstatic because his team had the chance to compete there.

"For the club swimmers, it's no big deal to compete at this facility, but for a lot of the kids who don't swim club, this is a first for them. And you can't help but not be impressed," Rowland said.

"I think it's great that we're able to swim here now," Mission Viejo Coach Mike Pelton said. "I mean, look at this place. It pumps up the kids to be able to swim at this complex."

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