EL CENTRO — City officials cut a blue ribbon to officially open the city's Aquatic Center Saturday morning, October 26, ushering the city into a new era of public swimming. A second ribbon-cutting followed — this time by children and parents.
This iconic pool, The Plunge, was damaged by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2010. This pool was the aquatic destination for many families through the decades. And according to a city official, there are now third-generation children who will be using the city pool.
Dignitaries spoke on a common theme of gratitude to every individual who contributed toward the completion of the Aquatic Center — from city staff to elected officials who sought the funding.
Council member Jason Jackson, who served as master of ceremonies, welcomed city officials and guests to the celebration, marking the city’s accomplishment of the $16 million aquatic center.
In response to critics’ previous remarks, Jackson responded, “We are not opening for this year, we are opening the pool for generations. Whether we opened in October or July, this facility is going to be here for the next 50 years.”
Pastor Sean Arvisu of Calvary Chapel-El Centro gave the invocation and blessing for the aquatic center. In his prayer, Pastor Arvisu asked for the aquatic center to be known as a place of love and cherished memories; his message was based on 1 John 4:7-11 from the Bible.
Dignitaries who gave their comments included Tomàs Oliva, representative of Congressman Juan Vargas—51st District; Ben Hueso, U.S. State Senator 40th District; a field representative for Eduardo Garcia, State Assembly member 56th District; Luis Plancarte, Imperial County Board of Supervisors, District 2; Raymond Castillo, Imperial County Board of Supervisor, District 5; the Honorable Judge Monica Lepe-Negrete; Library and Community Services Board; and Sylvia Preciado-Platero, American Red Cross-Imperial County Division.
Rebecca Corfman, aquatics supervisor, informed the audience of the different the features of the Aquatic Center. Adriana Nava, community services director, thanked her staff for their dedication to complete aquatic project.
Mayor Edgard Garcia delivered his state of the city address and enumerated the accomplishment of multiple city projects namely the repairs of city parking lots, upgrading Stark Field and Bucklin Park, and repairs and widening of La Brucherie Ave. and Main Street. He said a new, ongoing project is a park located behind Fire Station #3.
“It is a great day for the city of El Centro opening the brand new Aquatic Center,” said Mayor Garcia. “It is a wonderful addition for the community, not only in El Centro, but for all of our county residents and visitors and we hope that it gets a lot of use.”
Mayor Garcia later joined his family in swimming in the pools after the ribbon-cutting.
“It has been a dream of mine to run this facility,” said aquatics supervisor Corfman who oversees a staff of more than 30 individuals that run the center. “I’ve seen this project grow from talk, to paper, to now being open to the public.”
Corfman said she was a big water kid and grew up with Dippy Duck — the mascot of Imperial Irrigation District who taught her the importance of staying safe. Later, she joined the swim team at Central Union High School and now coaches the swim team.
About two hours after the ribbon-cutting, Corfman observed, “People were just too happy to be able to have a facility to swim in; something they can enjoy year 'round.”
It is a family environment and a safe recreation spot, said Corfman. Senior citizens, parents and their children rode on floats on the lazy river's current, carrying them the length of the river.
Stacey Johnson brought her eight-month-old daughter, Brooke Miller, from their residence about four blocks away.
“It is very good,” Johnson said about the aquatic center. According to her, even though she’s resided in El Centro for many years, “we never had a public pool.”
Johnson sat at the edge of the activity pool with Brooke and allowed the baby’s feet to touch the water. The child did not cry or show any fear, and she was getting used to the water, maintained at 82°F.
“It is amazing that El Centro was able to have these things now. I never had this when I was younger. I’m very glad that our community is evolving and turning into a nice place where kids and families can come together,” said Johnson.
The reporter asked the baby for a comment. Brooke responded with cooing that lasted about 10 seconds.
“It is an honor to be here,” said Lifeguard Lexy Luna, 17. Even during the interview by The Desert Review, Luna was constantly scanning her designated area of responsibility — the 1.5 foot deep activity pool — where children waded under splash zones.
According to Corfman, the most popular pool areas were the Children’s Activity Pool and the Lazy River.