Pleasanton reopened its popular, multi-million dollar swimming complex this month with the obligatory ribbon-cutting and a poolside dinner for several hundred community volunteers.
Mayor Jerry Thorne, wearing a Navy officer's cap in keeping with the evening's theme and dress code, cut the ribbon to loud applause with the City Council and many on the city staff behind him.
Also in the ceremony was Dolores Bengtson, the aquatic center's namesake and retired director of Parks and Community Services, who led the campaign to build the city's two original pools in 1968.
In a big-screen video shown at the ceremony, Bengston jested that she's very much alive even though she frequently hears people talking about the Dolores Bengtson "Memorial" Aquatic Center.
Bengtson, who took the first swim in the newly renovated pool complex (see photo), is still a civic leader active in maintaining quality housing, parks, sports facilities and open space in Pleasanton.
Once Bengtson managed the opening of the first two pools, she began pressing for a competitive diving pool, which was added in 1976. Later Thorne, whose daughter was active on the rapidly expanding Pleasanton Seahawks swim team, persuaded the Parks and Recreation Commission and City Council to fund a 50-meter Olympic size pool, which opened in 1996.
That gave both the Seahawks and its 273 current swimmers and the Tri-Valley Masters, with 200 swimmers, home pool advantage to hold numerous invitational competitive meets in their California and Western states leagues.
All good things age with wear. Deteriorating concrete decks and a need to replace and upgrade what had become an inadequate filtration system caused the City Council to approve the $3.8-million renovation project just completed. The cost for Pleasanton was considerably offset through an agreement by the East Bay Parks District to allocate $3,171,377 in voter-approved bond funds for the aquatic center project.
The renovation work included the relocation of the diving pool into the 25 meter pool by way of an L-shaped design, replastering of the pools, installation of access areas in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), deepening the 25-meter pool for future competitive uses, replacing the pool decking and the acquisition and installation of new plumbing, electrical, heating and filtration systems for the pools.
The entry way to the aquatic center on Black Avenue also had to be extended to house the large filtration tanks that now serve the pools.
"The Dolores Bengtson Aquatic Center is one of my favorite spots in Pleasanton," Mayor Thorne told celebrants at the reopening ceremony. "This is where I spent many happy hours as a proud parent watching my daughter swim her way in Seahawks competitions to what became a room-full of trophies and ribbons."
"Consider that in 2010, more than 2,500 children participated in learn-to-swim classes here, and another 150 signed up for classes to become lifeguards and water safety instructors," Thorne added. "That happens every year. Children, and adults, too, learn how to swim here or join a swim team and learn invaluable life skills that contribute to their overall well-being."
Michelle Stearns, Pleasanton's event administrator, said the aquatic center is open every day for lap swimming, including most holidays, except Christmas day and Easter Sunday. Water exercise is offered Monday through Friday. Programs start as early at 5 a.m. and go until 9 p.m.
As Thorne pointed out, 150 American Red Cross Lifeguards and Junior Lifeguards are trained at the center. Lifeguards must be able to recognize hazardous situations to prevent injury, supervise swimmers, minimize dangers, educate facility users about safety, enforce rules and regulations, provide assistance and perform rescues.
"Being a lifeguard carries significant professional responsibility and offers opportunities for both professional and personal growth," Stearns said.
Each year, another 50 are trained to be Red Cross Water Safety Instructors. Their job is to teach people to be safe in, on, and around water through water safety courses, and to conduct water-orientation classes for infants and toddlers, as well as handling the comprehensive Learn-to-Swim program.
In addition to the Pleasanton Seahawks and Tri-Valley Masters, the aquatic center also is the home of the DBAC Piranhas, a 173-member summer recreational swim team for those 4 to 18 years old.
Stearns said that more than 35,000 go to the Dolores Bengtson Aquatic Center each year for recreational and lap swimming and to attend water exercise classes.