WALNUT CREEK -- When Northgate High School was being built in the early 1970s, the design called for a pool to be built on a grassy hill on the edge of campus. Nearly 40 years later, that plan is finally becoming a reality.
Northgate High School will get a $7.5 million aquatic center by the summer of 2014. It will include a 40-meter pool with stadium seating and outdoor lighting, a practice gym for wrestling, cheer and dance, and a dedicated sports-medicine classroom.
While the idea of a pool has been floated for years, the center didn't become a real possibility until $6.7 million in Measure C funds -- approved by voters to improve facilities in the Mt. Diablo school district -- was allocated earlier this year. The remainder of the money will be raised by the Northgate Community Pride Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 1999 to help improve educational and athletic facilities at the school.
The money is in place to build the pool itself, but the foundation needs to raise money to complete all the "extras," said Ralph Austin, president of the foundation.
Having most of the money for construction has helped immensely in raising the remaining funds, he said.
"The pool has been a pipe dream; $7 million is just a big chunk of money to raise privately," Austin said. "But I think now people are more anxious to close the deal, there is this urgency to fund."
That was evident during the school registration days last month, when the foundation raised $40,000 in two days -- about four times what's usually raised at registration, Austin said.
The fundraising is in full swing; people who donate can get things like a starting block named after them, he said.
Tory Rose Full, a junior who has been on the varsity swim team since her freshman year, will have graduated by the time the pool is built. But she is excited, as she thinks swimming at one's own school will give Northgate's team a greater sense of pride and responsibility, she said.
"I love the atmosphere when we race at high school pools because the swimmers and other students have more of a team spirit," she said. "It gives them confidence to have that home-pool advantage, and to have their fellow classmates rooting them on."
For years students have had to travel to other area pools, such as Clarke Swim Center at Heather Farm Park or Diablo Valley College, for practice and meets. An on-campus facility will make it easier for the more than 100 swimmers who have to leave the grounds for practice every day, said Kim East, a Northgate parent.
"Practice time is also determined by the city pool; it is a public facility and must be cleared with Heather Farm," East said. "If we had a pool on campus, not only could the kids practice after school, but getting them to practice would no longer be a hassle."
While the pool will be used for the swim, dive and water polo teams, the school's wrestlers, dancers and cheerleaders will also get new facilities at the center.
The project is going through the design phase. It will eventually go before the school board for final approval. The board last month approved Arch Pac Aquatics as the architect.
Groundbreaking should take place next summer, and the Class of 2015 should have full use of the facility, Austin said.
To donate to the aquatic center project go to www.northgatepride.org.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.