Of swimming pools past, future
by Sam Matthews
Sep 20, 2013 | 10172 views | 2 2 comments | 571 571 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Tracy Plunge, shown in 1954, was a busy place during the summer months from its opening in 1931 through 1986, when it was closed with the opening of the community swimming pool — later named for Recreation Director Joe Wilson — in Dr. Powers Park.  Press file photo
The Tracy Plunge, shown in 1954, was a busy place during the summer months from its opening in 1931 through 1986, when it was closed with the opening of the community swimming pool — later named for Recreation Director Joe Wilson — in Dr. Powers Park. Press file photo
I tuned in the City Council meeting Tuesday night on Channel 26 and watched and listened to the discussion of what kind of an aquatic center could eventually wind up in Tracy.

And as several members of the council indicated, the discussion has gone on a long, long time without any decision being made to move the process along toward actual development.

And yes, the council decision to seek proposals from both Wild Rivers and Les Serpa of the Surland Cos. makes the most sense at the current time.

As I watched the discussions Tuesday night, several questions popped into my mind. Among them:

What about the unused Joe Wilson community swimming pool in Dr. Powers Park?

What’s wrong with it?

What would it take to bring it back to life?

How much would that cost?

Are there city funds available for a pool-restoration project?

Eventually, a 50-meter Olympic-size pool will be the ultimate answer, providing swim and water polo team members a pool in which to practice and compete, increasingly year-round.

But that could be years away, and restoration of the Wilson pool could provide more immediate progress in improving swimming facilities in Tracy and providing a place for teams and the general public alike.

A couple of blocks west of the Wilson pool, West High School has a world-class 50-meter Olympic-size pool built by both city of Tracy and Tracy Unified School District funds. While the Wilson pool stands empty, the Pinkie Phillips Aquatics Center has a crowded schedule for school, swim team and recreational swimming.

Reopening the Wilson pool, which would be ideal for recreational use and especially for swim lessons, would free up Pinkie’s pool for competitive swimming and water polo practice and meets, especially in the busy summer months.

In thinking about the Wilson pool, I recall that even before it was opened in 1986, it had problems. The pool was more than a year late being opened, after the architect and contractor waged open warfare. I recall Joe Wilson, then director of recreation, moaning about the infighting and delays. (That was before the pool was named for him.)

Later, the pool, which has odd dimensions, ran into operational problems that eventually caused its closure. That required the Tracy Plunge on Holly Drive to stay open more than a year longer than projected.

Ah yes, the Tracy Plunge, where Tom and Sam Matthews and most every other kid in town spent much of their summer hours. From the time it was opened in 1931 as a commercial venture to its closure in 1986 by the Tracy Recreation Commission, which operated it, and the Tracy Elementary School District, which had owned it since 1936, the Plunge was what a community swimming pool should be.

It never was home to competitive swimming — the Tracy High pool served that purpose after being opened in the 1960s. But the Plunge, with its large shallow end, was a great teaching pool, and its deep end — 8-feet deep with a diving board — served recreation swimmers. In its early life, the pool’s deep end was partially covered with a roof, giving springboard devotees a target in what became a “touching the rafters” summer ritual.

Since a fire destroyed what was left of the then-closed Plunge in 1998, its site has remained a fenced-off vacant lot across the street from the Tracy Learning Center charter-school campus, which includes K-8 and Millennium High School classes.

Hey, maybe the charter school can find funding to build a pool on the Plunge site. Some grass and tress around a 50-meter pool and everybody would be happy.

•Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at shm@tracypress.com.
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September 21, 2013
As usual, Sam comes through with the voice of reason. I, too, watch the Council meetings on Channel 26 and often fall asleep because of the endless comments for something that we just cannot do. Any of you ever hear of "economics"? Serpa (Surland) is not the answer.

We had the plunge and were happy. Really happy.
September 22, 2013
Amen... Councilman Manne, there are many options to have swimming lessons for your son in Tracy - private and public. If any of the Council believes Wild River wants a competition pool in their aquatics center, you are all dreaming. They want to make a profit, which is appropriate for a business, not complete a "competition-pool dream". I'm totally with Mr. Matthews - what's wrong with the Pinkie Phillips pool at WHS and fixing the Joe Wilson pool?

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