Fundraising campaign launches for Coggan pool renovation

A rendering depicts the proposed new deck, storage and locker facilities for the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex in La Jolla.
(Courtesy of Story Architecture & Design)

A campaign to raise funds for a major renovation of the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex on the La Jolla High School campus — considered a “miracle pool” by those who were there when it opened — will kick off Sunday, June 13, to bring new and upgraded amenities to the almost 20-year-old facility.

The complex’s Olympic-size swimming pool, opened in 2002, is the home pool for the physical education programs of La Jolla High and Muirlands Middle schools, the La Jolla High swim and water polo teams, La Jolla United water polo, the Wind N Sea Swim Team and Wind N Sea Masters Swimming. It also hosts CIF San Diego Section water polo championships, NCAA tournaments and more.

“It’s a focal point in the community but has taken its wear and tear, so we wanted to bring it up to code and expand the facilities because it’s a popular place to be,” said campaign co-chair Jack McGrory. “It’s known as a great pool and has seen some great use.”

The Coggan is an independent nonprofit facility owned and operated by the La Jolla Aquatic Complex Foundation. Noting that pools should be replaced every 10 years or so, the foundation board said the time has come for a major upgrade.

Facility enhancements will include pool and deck resurfacing, which is considered a “first priority” as the usable life of typical pool surfacing is seven to 10 years; construction of a retaining wall on the west side of the complex, currently an unusable slope; construction of a new approximately 1,000-square-foot public shaded cabana and storage area; upgraded locker rooms and changing areas; expansion of the outdoor heated spa to double the capacity to 20 people; and transformation of a concession area into a multipurpose community and classroom space.

The suggested improvements came at the recommendation of aquatics director Randy Franke, who has overseen the facility’s day-to-day operations from the beginning.

The goal is to raise $4 million. About $1.6 million is already accounted for, thanks largely to the Coggan family and McGrory.

Renovations are expected to begin in June 2022, with a grand reopening scheduled for three months later.

A rendering shows the new deck area planned for the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex on the La Jolla High School campus.
(Courtesy of Story Architecture & Design)

“It’s such a top facility, we hope people will donate so we can keep it that way,” said Sandy Coggan Erickson, whose family was part of the founding team. “I consider it a miracle pool because there wasn’t money for it and there wasn’t land for it [when it was first built]. It looks like we are going to do the miracle job again.”

The facility was named for the Coggan family in honor of Erickson’s father, Bernard, who was an educator in the San Diego Unified School District.

“He gave me my diploma when I graduated from La Jolla High School,” she said.

At the time the aquatic complex was being proposed, then-La Jolla High School Principal Dana Shelbourne assembled alumni and parents of current students to see if it was feasible. One of them was Erickson, who later told her mother, Bonnie, about it over lunch.

“She said she wanted to donate a million dollars in honor of my father,” she said. “That was the kickoff that was used by all of us to believe that we could do this and find money to make it happen.”

But another problem remained: where to put it.

McGrory was brought in to consult on where the pool could be located. He realized that because the school was built in the 1920s, there was some question about property lines and that Fay Avenue could be moved to make the space.

“No one knew where the property lines were, so I got some planners and engineers and we divided the land,” he said. “We relocated Fay Avenue for six or seven months and put all the traffic from Fay onto West Muirlands. That created the space to build the pool.”

The result was “better than we expected,” he said. “We’re happy with the way everything turned out and the usage of that pool. It’s a center for competitive events in the community … so we wanted to maintain what has become a valuable asset in La Jolla.”

Learning how to swim as an adult has some serious challenges — both for the student and the instructor.

Over the years, the board presented its annual “Splash Bash” to raise money for smaller maintenance projects, but McGrory said the time has come for a “major reinvestment.”

Continuing the family tradition of giving to the facility, Erickson seeded money to get the campaign started.

“My mom brought in the money to start it, so when she passed away, money came to me for when the pool needed additional funding,” she said. “This will bring in a new generation of the pool for the next generation of users.”

To find out more, contact Franke at (858) 263-1802 or ◆