Story by Leon Gonzalez. Photos by Crystal Niebla
LONG BEACH, Calif. — The windows inside Woodrow Wilson Classical High School’s swimming pool center haven’t been able to open in years. Paired with the stench of chlorine, the lack of ventilation forces the swim team’s athletes to stop practice at times because they can’t breath. Some said they even get sick from the chemicals.
“There is not any ventilation or air flow inside the Wilson pool and it gets really hot in there,” said senior Emily Paz. “And when one person gets sick, everyone gets sick because it’s in the water.”
The school has had a long history of successful sports programs since its inception, though the condition of its athletic facilities has begun to cause issues for the students using them. A $1.5 billion bond passed in November, however, may turn those troubles around.
Long Beach’s Measure E directs 8 percent of the bond toward athletic facilities over a decade, according to district officials. “The timeline is going to be changing, but it will be 10 years or so before we get all the athletic facilities finished,” said Jeffrey Evans, Wilson’s Athletic Director.
With all athletic facilities on the campus needing upgrades, some students will not see the renovations before they graduate. However, other improvements like a new football field and an all-weather track should be done around March next year when track season starts but not in time for this year’s football season.
More recently, the track was flooded with mud during rains making it hard on runners’ bodies. The football field is also covered in holes and divots that the students must avoid or else they risk injuring themselves by stepping in one.
“It’s real hard, especially when it rains,” said Ian Issa, a Wilson junior and track and field athlete. “We can’t practice and we can’t run on mud.”
The locker rooms’ showers and toilets are also so filthy that students said they have stopped using them. And despite Wilson’s niche for churning out Olympic swimmers, the swimming pool is especially in need of major improvements, as well.
The pool is no longer regulation size for water polo games or swim meets — 25 meters for a “short course” and 50 meters for a “long course”. So, the boys’ water polo team practices at the Belmont Pool, which they rent with the help of their Booster Club and fundraisers. That pool is a 10-minute drive from campus which they use so they can better prepare for their competitions.
“The only way to prepare for the type of competition we have is to practice in the bigger open water,” said senior Alan Peoples.
But the girls’ swim team still uses the pool on campus. Despite the tough conditions, their coach and athletic staff believe if past students who went on to be Olympians used their pool, so can the current students.
Renovations are “definitely something that are needed… but our programs that want to be successful have been able to find a way to do so,” Evans said.
The campus pool is scheduled to be relocated starting in summer 2019 as part of the Master Plan. Students said that without such changes, they will have less rigorous training than competing schools. But with more renovations across Long Beach schools slated to begin this summer, students, coaches, and members of the community alike have become excited to see their schools revamped.
For more district information on bond use, go here.