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Orange County

Irvine Will Spend $13 Million to Replace 3 Swimming Pools

Recreation: City and the school district OK plans to create the county's largest aquatic center.


School and city officials in Irvine have agreed on an ambitious plan to plow under three public swimming pools and construct a $13.4-million aquatic facility, creating the largest such complex in the county.

The work already has displaced the Novaquatics, a nationally renowned swim program.

"You either pay me now or pay me later," said John McAllister, Irvine's deputy director of community services. "You have to do it now because the pools are failing. It's a hard bite to take for a lot of people, but it'll be worth it in the long run."

The plan, which calls for the city to spend $10.4 million to refurbish the three pools at Heritage Aquatic Park Complex, was unanimously approved Tuesday by the City Council. In August, the Irvine Unified School District agreed to spend $3 million to help the city renovate and expand Irvine High's pool, one of the three at the park. The expansion means the park will have two Olympic-size 50-meter pools and one 25-meter pool for recreational swimming. No other facility in the county has two 50-meter pools.

The Novaquatics, which produced 2000 Olympic medalists Amanda Beard, Aaron Peirsol and Jason Lezak, will be the main beneficiary of the remodeled pools, which are expected to open in spring 2004.

But for the next 18 months, the Novaquatics will be scattered around the county. Some members are training at Soka University in Aliso Viejo; others are at Los Caballeros Sports Village in Fountain Valley. Novaquatics head coach Dave Salo also is negotiating with several homeowner associations in Irvine for temporary pool space.

The program also is trying to raise $200,000 for a temporary above-ground 25-meter pool that would be built in an industrial park on Barranca Parkway. If funds can be raised in the next few months, Salo said the pool could be ready by March.

Lately, Salo has been simply struggling to keep his team together. "We've lost a few families but 95% have stayed and endured the discomfort," he said.

The repairs also will require all four city schools to share University High's pool for swim meets and water polo games.

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