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Thursday, March 21 , 2019, 3:41 pm | Mostly Cloudy 57º


Arrival of Pools from Olympic Swimming Trials Makes Big Splash in Santa Ynez Valley

Pools to be centerpieces of planned $4 million aquatics and sports medicine facility heralded as 'one more jewel' for community


With a hint of summer in the air, Santa Ynez Valley residents showed up to greet the arrival of what community leaders called the cornerstone of a new aquatics and sports medicine facility with Olympic roots.

One truck, with two others already parked, traveled the final leg of the journey for the two pools used in the Olympic swimming trials last summer and purchased by the Santa Ynez Valley Community Aquatics Foundation.

More than 200 people attended the festive event Friday afternoon at the Mission Santa Inés parking lot, where a ceremony heralded what Bruce Porter, an executive committee member for the aquatics foundation, called “one more jewel in the valley.”

“We’re pretty doggone excited,” he said before the ceremony’s start.

Porter added that valley residents, spanning from youngsters to senior citizens, will use the pool, which will be available year-round.

“This is big day for our valley,” he said, adding the project has been in works for two years starting “from nothing but a notion.” Plans call for completion by summer 2018.

Friday’s ceremony capped a 1,700-mile, two-day road-trip that began in Omaha, Neb., where the 2016 Olympic swimming trials took place.

It also signaled the finish for one phase of the project to install a new pool for the community — and the start of more fundraising.

“This will continue to be a huge effort — $1 million down, $4 million to go,” Porter told the crowd.

Components were tucked into three trucks — with pieces looking nothing like massive state-of-the-art swimming pools manufactured by Myrtha Pools. But that didn’t stop water sports enthusiasts, adults and youths alike, from eagerly peering inside the trucks Friday.

“Everybody has seen these pools on television,” Porter said. “We’ve had world-class swimmers swimming in these pools already.”

There’s one more reason to be excited about the pools — getting them will save more than $1 million in construction costs, he added.

Pools nowadays are made of stainless steel lined with vinyl and installed as modular segments, Porter noted.

“Virtually everything that you saw on TV in Omaha we bought, except for the wood decking ...,” he continued. “What’s not included, and we still need to raise money for, are diving boards, the scoreboard system and those kinds of things.”

The proposed complex calls for a 50-meter competition pool and a second, 25-yard pool for fitness, wellness and therapeutic programs, as well as recreational swimming. Both pools are to be located at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School, at 2975 Highway 246.

The high school’s existing pool is more than 50 years old and showing its age, officials said. As a result, the facility is unable to host swim meets and water polo matches.

Friday’s Olympic Pool Welcome Ceremony & Celebration included speeches, food and photo opportunities.

Near the start of the speeches, Father Matthew Elshoff, pastor of the Mission Santa Ines parish, blessed the containers with holy water.

Other participants included Kami Craig, three-time Olympic water polo medalist, and retired Coast Guard Rear Adm. Timothy Sullivan of Mission: Readiness. Wolf Wigo, UCSB men's water polo coach and Santa Barbara Premier Water Polo Club technical director, also spoke.

Gary Hall Jr., 10-time Olympic swimming medalist and key impetus behind acquiring the new pools, was unable to attend Friday’s ceremony.

“As a proud Santa Ynez native, I cannot think of a better community to receive these pools in our efforts to build elite aquatic and sports medicine facilities,” Craig said.

She credited her participation in the community’s aquatics program for shaping her as an athlete and the adult she became.

But, the new pool facility won’t just train Olympic hopefuls, Sullivan said, adding that future rescue swimmers who will save lives of people in distress could come from the valley’s aquatics programs.

“I’m convinced this goes well beyond serving seniors, locals, athletes,” he added.

Sporting a medial around her neck, Craig posed for multiple photos, which were instantly printed out into a keepsake memory card for those who used the project hashtag, #syvaquatics.

Young swimmers, high school water polo players and community members were on hand for Friday’s festivities.

“This is even more than what we hoped for,” said Cary Losson, another executive committee member.

He noted the community spirit on display at the ceremony.

“This is the legacy property of the Santa Ynez Valley,” Losson said. “Nothing else is going to compare. It’s something we can all enjoy — including my kids and grandkids — for decades to come.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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