Calexico Aquatic Center Triumphs Despite Obstacles

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State and Calexico attended the ribbon cutting of the Margarita De Necochea Bulldog Aquatic Center

CALEXICO – A project which once seemed like an ever-threatened hope came to fruition Friday afternoon, during the ribbon cutting ceremony of the highly anticipated Margarita De Necochea Bulldog Aquatic Center held by the Calexico Unified School District and the City of Calexico.

“Mother Nature seems to have a thing for Calexico’s public pools” said Maria Ambriz, Calexico Unified School District Superintendent, referring to the 5.2 earthquake that struck that morning. “She came a knockin’ and a rockin’ early this morning. I just took it as a sign from her and from God that this is going to be a place that is going to be moving and shaking for decades to come.”

The Margarita De Necochea Bulldog Aquatic Center replaces the pool damaged by the 7.2 earthquake that struck the region back in April of 2010. The state-of-the-art recreational facility includes a competition pool, recreational pool, a “kiddy” pool, locker and shower room, and shade structures.

“This has been several years in the making and without each and every one of you this would not be a reality” said Ambriz. “Over the past two years there had been plenty of meetings, planning sessions, hurtles, challenges, boxing matches if you will, but however with advocates in Calexico, advocates in our district within our city and within our state it can be done.”

President of the Calexico Unified School District Board of Trustees Ciro Calderon said as impressive as the pool may seem. the project represented much more than a simple pool.

“This pool is the efforts of Calexico Unified and the City of Calexico working together and making sure that we provide what we need to provide for our citizens” said Calderon. “I am going to be honest and say I was afraid for a couple of months when rumors of people not wanting this pool to be built began, but Mr. Moreno, Mr. Castro, Mr. Real and Mrs. Hurtado (Calexico city council members) thank you for your efforts and for being with us and saying yes to this project and for your support.”

The Margarita De Necochea Bulldog Aquatic Center name comes from the late Margarita De Necochea who worked over two decades at the Calexico High School library and last wish was to rebuild the community pool before her passing in 2011.  Bulldog Aquatic Center was chosen during a school wide contest won by Laura Sierra a Calexico High School freshman.

The De Necochea family and dignitaries from throughout the Valley joined in the celebration including State Senator Ben Hueso and Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia.

The $7.4 million project consisted of $2.7 in state funding from state Parks and Recreation Department grant, Calexico’s Measure H Revenue, Calexico’s Measure H bond and from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Assemblymember Garcia emphasized the successful efforts of Senator Hueso to allocate $2.7 million when the State was cautiously watching their monies in 2014.

“I witnessed day after day Senator Hueso’s tireless advocacy in Sacramento to allocate $2.7 million for this project” said Garcia. “Senator Hueso brought leadership from the state senate to the city of Calexico a few years ago, gave them a tour of the place, highlighted the needs and got them to understand the importance of this aquatic center project. And for the next few months and years the strategic approach of sneaking in $2.7 million to the California state budget that is about $117 billion wasn’t an easy strategy for him (Hueso).”

Senator Hueso said ultimately, it was the tireless advocacy of countless individuals and the community as a whole that resulted in today’s ribbon cutting and informal pool party.

“We have a lot to be grateful for today” said Hueso. “I want to thank all of my staff and former staff in particular Frank Salazar (former employee) who during one of my visits to the valley, while driving down told me the whole story about the pool and I said how is that even possible that in a community like this that can often see temperatures up to 124 degrees that there isn’t a place for the children to get a retreat from the hot sun. That is when it all started.”

Hueso said it was a hard fought battle but it was something that was worth doing and said this was only the beginning of many more things to come.

“Like Ciro (Calderon) said, this is not only a pool, this is part of the community and through all of our combined efforts we created a fabric and that fabric is only as strong as each individuals strength” said Hueso. “Recreation is very important and we all need to be unified and work closely to build projects to benefit our families.”

Hueso also challenged any one guest to a 100-yard swimming race resulting in a $2,500 donation to the swim team if defeated by that opponent. Calexico High School student Daniela Garcia accepted the challenge that ended up in a tie.

“I just want an excuse to get into the pool,” said Hueso. “It’s hot.”

CUSD presented Senator Hueso with a plaque in recognition for his efforts to secure $2.7 million in state funding for the completion of the aquatic center.

Inaugurating the pools were students representing each school in the district who were the fortunate ones to jump into the pools.

The Margarita De Necochea will officially open its doors to the public on July 5.

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