La Mirada takes plunge at opening of Splash! aquatics complex


Photo by Lehua kamakawiwoole

Splash! welcomed La Mirada to its grounds on Saturaday with a grand opening. The aquatic park across the street from Biola’s campus offers various water slides and pools.

In any other community, diving into a pool in mid-November would be absurd.

But for the thousands of La Mirada residents who crowded around waterslides and an Olympic-sized pool for Saturday’s Splash! grand opening bash, getting soaked was the thing to do.

Among those with sopping hair were City Council members Susan Tripp and Pete Dames — the two took the lead by riding one of the brand new waterslides after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Hal Malkin, mayor pro tempore and the only council member with dry hair, joked that he was the outsider of the council.

“You can put me down as Hal ‘Wimp,’” he said.

Splash!, an 18-acre aquatics center that has been under construction since June, 2006 looks more like an amusement park than a public pool. On one side of the campus, a 50-yard swimming pool is flanked by a grandstand and LED scoreboards. In the center is a shallow wading pool. And on the north side is a pirate-themed Buccaneer Bay water park, complete with four tall water slides and a moving “river.”

The publicly owned and operated facility came with a hefty price tag – at groundbreaking, the estimated cost was $25 million. In addition to private donations, the city had to raise millions in bonds, although council member Pete Dames explained that the city established no new taxes and did not go into debt to build Splash!.

For Biola students, Splash! may seem like a surprise project, especially since it is tucked away behind a library and civic center. But Dames said the vision has been in place since the late ‘80s, when a community survey indicated a community pool was top on residents’ wish lists.

After researching civic pools around the country, Dames noticed a trend — a single, rectangular swimming hold just wouldn’t cut it. To keep up with the needs of a diverse community, the city would need to build an entire aquatics complex.

Though it was completed somewhat later than expected, as the contractor initially estimated a June 2006 completion date, Dames and Malkin were more than pleased with the results. They said other city councils have toured the facility, and they say it looks more like a Marriott resort than a public facility.

Splash! will charge visitors a small admission fee, but will also be used to host water polo games, synchronized swimming classes, competitions and even Biola swimming events.

”I can’t wait to get in it,” said Jeremy Davidson, a member of the Biola swim team. “It should be really good for recruitment.”

Davidson hopes having such a spacious facility will allow Biola to host invitationals and increase the team’s profile, especially since some people don’t even know the team exists.

For Malkin and Dames, the investment was a way to bolster an already-thriving set of community programs.

“We get a tremendous response from our youth programs,” Dames said, explaining that often, people who grew up in La Mirada and then move away will return when they have families — all because of family-friendly programs.

“The priority is young people,” he said.

At the grand opening, which was teeming with people largely because of the free admission and complementary barbecue lunch, there was no shortage of young people. Fullerton resident Sarah Flores, a Biola alumna, brought her husband, 2-year-old son and family friends to the grand opening.

“We plan on coming here in the future,” said the expectant mother, adding that it would be a fun, safe place for her toddler son to get over his fear of water. “Now he can experience water in ways he can enjoy.”

The pools at Splash! will be open throughout the winter, but Buccaneer Bay will only be open seasonally.

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