Santa Clara's Swim Center needs over $6.2 million in repairs, Olympic training in jeopardy

Santa Clara City Council says a new report finds it’ll cost $6.263 million to make repairs at the George F. Haines International Swim Center. The swim center was closed earlier this month due to maintenance and safety issues just as local athletes are preparing for the summer Olympic trials.  

The facility has been open since 1967 and city officials say it has outlived its usage span, and now it needs to be restored. The swimming community says there is just not enough space now to meet their training needs.  

"We don’t really know where our practice will be next. So, every week we get a new schedule, we go to a new place and it’s a bit overwhelming," said Emma, a Santa Clara Swim Club member. 

Dozens of people came out to Tuesday night’s City Council meeting after the George F. Haines International Swim Center was suddenly shut down indefinitely on Jan. 11. Members of the Santa Clara Swim Club say the closure is hampering training for upcoming Olympic tryouts.

"Can we put a temporary structure, or temporary pool that we can use in the short term until we figure out what to do in the long term?" asked Kevin Zacher, Santa Clara Swim Club head coach.

During the meeting, LPA, Inc. and Aquatic Design Group submitted a 100+-page report detailing the major issues that led to the closure. The report says the pools and main building are no longer up to code, including a decaying roof, eroding foundations and a corroding electrical system.

"You can see from these pictures they’re showing signs of corrosion of fluorescents, failure in the concrete, to the extent that even swimming in this pool is of concern. The pool water could actually suck you out into this area," said one of the assessors presenting the facility's report. 

The report also said the pools were closed for 100 days last year because of repeated equipment failures. Mayor Lisa Gilmor described the situation as dire, but Santa Clara’s Finance Director says the city has about $571 million in infrastructure projects, including the swim center, that need funding.

"We as staff acknowledge the challenges with regard to capital funding, and we’ll be back before the council with some key decisions around the funding, especially with our November ballot," said Kenn Lee, Santa Clara City finance director.

One of the assessors described this situation as like trying to fix an old car and each time you fix one part, another part malfunctions. 

The council discussed options like building a new center and putting this funding issue before voters. The council meeting went late into the night without any decisions being made for the long or short term.