Orange Coast College is set to start construction on a new Aquatic Center in December that will include a standard competition-sized pool as well as a pool designed for students in the Adaptive Education program.

The center, which is expected to be fully functional by early 2021, will be moved from its current location near the gym to the west side of the LeBard Stadium, next to the Adams Avenue Parking Lot.

The project has been discussed since 2012 and comes as a result of Measure M, which has helped provide the school with additional funding for new construction projects.

“Our Pirate swimmers, they deserve to swim in the best if they are the best in the state, and we have the opportunity to give it to them,” OCC Administrative Services Vice President Rich Pagel said.

Pagel said the current 25-yard pool, built in 1956, cannot be used for competitions because today’s standard competition pools use meters as a measurement.

The new project, however, will be more advanced and have a pool with a standard competition length of 60 meters, about three times larger than the current pool, according to Pagel.

The front part to the first 60-meter length can be used for swim competitions and can host two water polo competitions at the same time. The remainder of the pool can be used for diving competitions since multiple diving platforms will be included, Pagel said.

The project’s overall budget is $43 million, $30 million of which will go toward construction costs according to Pagel. However, he said there is no fixed cost yet.

According to Pagel, the school has run estimates to determine expected costs and the construction team, including the project’s architects, have assured them they are “on track.”

“We won’t know what it truly costs though because we go out to the market, everybody submits bids, and then by law, we have to go with the lowest bid,” Pagel said. “So, we did a prequalification of firms, those firms have the plans, they are asking questions on the plans and they will submit the proposal back to us on Oct. 25.”

In addition, the new center will have a pool that will serve the Adaptive Education program to help those with disabilities, Pagel said.

“It’s going to be the one pool, with a nice gentle slope where they can get into the water and they will have accessible chairs,” Pagel said. “It’s going to be a warmer pool that will allow people with mobility issues to get in.”

OCC’s current pool is problematic and unsafe, according to Pagel. The deck is slippery, he said, and pool keepers constantly have to refill the water because it drains a lot.

OCC will also offer regular swimming lessons for children, students and possibly OCC’s student housing tenants. However, it hasn’t been discussed whether those tenants can use the pool for free or take classes offered by OCC, Pagel said.

“We have trained so many young people to swim on campus, that is one thing we will continue doing with the pool,” Pagel said.

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