Palo Alto may get recreational swim program


City of Palo Alto officials are looking into starting a year-round children's recreational swim league at Rinconada Pool. The idea comes after a number of parents requested the more-inclusive league during the school year.

The Palo Alto Swim Club currently leases the pool during after-school hours, but it has a stringent program for competitive swimmers, a group of parents said. That means some kids are being left out, they said.

The swim club uses the pool off Embarcadero Road from mid-afternoon to about 8 p.m., according to the city's pool schedule.

Lacee Kortsen, the city community services manager, said she supports having a recreational league.

"I was a year-round swimmer, so I understand. We feel there should be a program for novice swimmers," she said.

The city and the club, which is part of Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics (PASA), have had a contract for many years, she said. The club teaches children competitive swimming, and children participate in swim meets.

Rinconada Pool offers recreational swimming during the late summer and daily lap swimming year-round. The lap swim is open to all ages but does not involve instruction, Kortsen said.

Finding a recreational swim league is not easy, parents say.

"I've been trying to get my kids to be able to swim year-round for years," said Jessica Galbraith, who approached Kortsen about the issue Sept. 12.

"It is hard to find a place. The Jewish Community Center swim program is packed. They are booked for six months and are not taking anyone for the waiting list. My kids made it onto the recreational team at Stanford, but it was full. We went to put our name in at the Eichler Swim Club, but we were told there is a three-year waiting list," she said.

With seven children, ages 3 months to 11 years old, Galbraith said she is too stretched for time to drive her children to Menlo Park's Burgess Park Pool, which is the only other alternative. So her kids just don't swim during the school year. But having a swim program at Rinconada year-round would serve Palo Alto families well, and it would cut down on traffic, she said.

"Our kids could get on their bikes, and I could load up the stroller and walk there," she said.

Parent Rohini Chakravarthy has been gathering support for the year-round swim league, emailing her neighbors to ask if anyone else was in the same situation. Parents of 20 children responded, she said.

"Our 10-year-old loves to swim, swims three times a week, has compliant technique on all four strokes and has some experience with meets. I would imagine that with that level of commitment, we would have a local swim program that builds on his enthusiasm. But he tried out for PASA last year and this year and didn't get in either time because he was not fast enough.

"The key is that PASA is solely focused on training for competition, not competence. The weekend recreational hours are not enough for non-PASA kids to train and grow. The Mavericks team at Burgess has worked well for him — has met him at his level and helped him grow."

But "it adds two hours of driving every week on city streets — or over 200 car trips a year that could instead have been bike trips to Rinconada," she stated in an email to the Weekly.

Tony Batis, Palo Alto Swim Club head coach, said the club would accommodate recreational swimmers if the space were available. The club has more than 300 year-round members ages 5 to 18. They use 14 lanes each day, with as many as 10 kids in each lane, he said.

Demand increased after the 2012 Summer Olympics, when many kids were inspired to become the next Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte, he said.

The club rents space at Jordan Middle School in the fall and at Palo Alto High School in the winter to meet the demand. Palo Alto residents make up 85 to 90 percent of the club.

"We're bursting at the seams and can't take in a lot of (additional) kids," he said.

Other swim clubs are facing the same challenges, he added.

Kortsen and Batis plan to meet to discuss adding a recreational league. If the club is not interested, the city might approach the Rinconada Masters Swim Club, Korsten said. The Masters is currently comprised of adult swimmers, but coach Carol Macpherson said she holds summer swim classes for kids in Redwood City and would be interested in teaching kids in a recreational league. She also knows of two other coaches, she said.

"But the most important thing is: Do they have the room?" she said.

Kortsen said she is committed to developing the program, but it could take some time to arrange for facility availability, staffing, budget, safety and other considerations.


Like this comment
Posted by Susan Fisher
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Sep 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I have run into this same problem trying to find a swim team for my daughter. I would be very interested in a city recreational swim team. It would fill a much needed void.

Like this comment
Posted by Ronald L.
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 23, 2013 at 2:49 pm

Thank you Lacee Kortsen for advocating for kids who wish to swim. Having enough guards during the summer to let kids in the pool would be
an improvement as well. Rinconada turned Rec swimmers away many times this past summer.

Like this comment
Posted by Flying in the water
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2013 at 3:04 pm

There is a YMCA in Palo Alto Midtown that is perfect for recreational swimmers.

Like this comment
Posted by Ronald L.
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 23, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Hello Flying, does their facility have diving boards? Ronald

Like this comment
Posted by Steven Hardy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm

I endorse the idea of a year round recreational swim program at Rinconada. We need all Palo Alto children to be competent swimmers and the city should focus on that objective and not let elitists dominate the use of city facilities to the detriment of ordinary residents.

Like this comment
Posted by YMCAer
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 23, 2013 at 8:05 pm

The Midtown Y on Ross Rd has a pool, yes, but it is always too crowded to get in any real swimming. When water exercise classes are in session, there is. O other swimming allowed. Try 24-Hour Fitness...pool is smaller, but much less crowded, and the cost is less.

Like this comment
Posted by another option
a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 23, 2013 at 10:51 pm

That's why I ended up joining Solo Aquatics at Burgess. It's wonderfully as low-key as one could want or as competitive as any other swim team around. Palo Alto should have an option for rec swimmers.

Like this comment
Posted by Alan
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Sep 24, 2013 at 12:08 am

PASA is a great program just see how many kids from it get college scholarships, so leave it alone. There are plenty of alternatives as point out by others. JSCC, the Y, summer league swimming.

"Year round" and "recreational swim league" don't seem like things that belong in the same sentence.

I don't understand how a kid that isn't serious about swimming would want to do it year round. Once you are swimming year round and know all the strokes CBA meet can be done by any kid that is determined to do it. The recreation league is during summer.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 24, 2013 at 10:19 am

Here is an example of why Cubberley should have a full aquatic center when it is rebuilt. South Palo Alto has no aquatic center on a par with Rinconada, and this is why that pool is overbooked. There are so many young people in Palo Alto who would benefit from more swimming opportunities at the appropriate level of intensity. The options open to the general public are very limited. Even the YMCA requires you to join, and yes, you have to check the box that says you believe in 'god'. And no, a college scholarship is far too narrow a goal for participation in swimming. Why that would rule out so many kids that it would hardly be worth while if it were the only benefit.

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Sep 24, 2013 at 6:11 pm

My kids - now in college - would have loved a recreational league that would have allowed them to work out in a pool (they are both good swimmers) without the competitive swimming in meets. Even the private pools have little room for "rec" swimmers, try swimming laps as an under 18 at the University Club in the summer. Once the camps are out - when all the kids appear at the pool - the summer swim team takes over all but one lane unless you are an adult. Swimming is a sport you can continue to participate in as an adult (as opposed to football, soccer or volleyball for most people) we should encourage swimming in our kids.

Less competition, more exercise!

Like this comment
Posted by Like This Idea
a resident of Midtown
on Sep 24, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Our kids were PASA swimmers for a few years. It's a wonderful program but very time consuming and demanding: 5+ days a week practice, 1 to 3 hours a day depending on their level, dry land cross-training, weekend practices, early morning practices, weekend swim meets, and travel meets. Their club trains competive, college track swimmers, and some Olympic class swimmers.

After awhile, it became the only the we did as a family which was too much for us. We want our kids to have time to do homework, have family dinners, and develop interests and skills beyond swimming. We'd love to see a program that lets kids swim for their health and for recreation, possibly 2 to 3 times a week.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 25, 2013 at 6:09 am

There are two threads going...Web Link

I noted in the other thread that a new HS pool is about $5mil. to build. And you should be aware that the HS pools are booked all day/night during the school year. You won't have regular access during the school year.

In the meantime, the much more cost effective alternative is to work a deal with PAUSD to access Terman or JLS pools. And they are available now.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Sep 25, 2013 at 8:35 am

Yes, the usual high school pool is in use and unavailable much of the time, as are middle school pools which are not accessible during the school day to non students. Many high schools are benefiting from having a larger aquatic facility on campus, which may include more than one pool. This way, the community gains access to the pool for all sorts of aquatic events and programs, year round, while the school may host meets and water polo tournaments, while sharing the cost with other users. The entire community benefits by the sharing of this resource. Swimming for fitness is beneficial to a wide spectrum of people, whether on track for college competition or not, and water polo is a growing sport, more challenging than football, but with far fewer injuries.Families with water polo players or swimmers must currently drive all over the bay area to reach pools suitable for these activities.Anyone under 18 who wishes to swim laps has to wait until they come of age. South Palo Alto needs an aquatic center at Cubberley.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 25, 2013 at 5:29 pm

I don't think the school district should be the entity to solve the problem (i.e., build a "community pool complex"). Such a project would send the costs closer to $10mil. just to build.

And I don't think you're going to have enough space on the site for more than one competition pool once you build out football, baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, dance, wrestling and basketball/volleyball facilities.

If you really want a true community access facility, why not build a recreation style pool(s) at Mitchell Park? That would seem to be most appropriate. City built, city owned, city managed. Of course one has to wonder where the money would come from...

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm

I think the only way we will get any new first class recreational sport facilities for Palo Alto residents would be through corporate sponsoring. I also think that large corporations should be doing this for the communities in which their employees live, so it should be something that makes sense to them. They could give their employees and families discounts and the rest of local residents would pay a fair fee.

We definitely can't afford any more bonds, parcel taxes or sales tax increases to pay for such things which we sorely could do with.

It might be fun to swim at the Google/HP/Facebook/??? pool!

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 26, 2013 at 11:20 am

Resident: The "newer" tech companies our doing just that. These new firms go out of their way to establish a work environment that caters to employees beyond the office. Gyms, classes, cafes (free food), pools, etc. are all part of the new corporate life. Google and EBay have pools at some of their campuses today. So does Pixar. Of course these facilities are for employees, not the general public.

BTW - Stanford is building (almost open) a new 50 meter pool for recreation use only. New gym too. Located at the old Roble Gym site/area.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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