Coggan Family Aquatic Center marks 10 years

By Phil Dailey

The Coggan Family Aquatic Center just turned 10 years old this month, but for La Jolla High School principal Dana Shelburne, it seems that it took just as long to get the idea of a pool at the school off the ground.

It was the mid 1990s when Shelburne, saw there was something missing on the La Jolla campus. After spending a few years working in the Grossmont Union School District, Shelburne noticed that just about every school in San Diego’s East County had one thing in common — a 25-meter pool on campus.

But it wasn’t until the fall of 1999 — four years after Shelburne returned to La Jolla High — when the thought of getting a pool built on campus amounted to more than just a dream.

Shelburne’s plan included realigning Fay Avenue and swapping land with the City of San Diego.

Though Shelburne may get the lions-share of the credit for the pool that now sits at the corner of Fay and Nautilus, he’ll be the first to suggest it was not him alone who put the wheels in motion.

“It’s one of those wonderful things where it doesn’t really matter who had the idea or where it got started, but when it happens it seems like it’s so natural

that it should always have been there,”he said.

Though it may have been Shelburne who gathered a select group of people in the fall of 1999 to get the project rolling, there are countless others who shared a key role in the project.

Shelburne is quick to recall the efforts of former San Diego City Manager Jack McGrory, who knew the ins and outs of getting a public project off the ground.

“It was Jack who had the connections and knew what had to be done,” Shelburne said.

In 2001 the City of San Diego and the San Diego Unified School District agreed to a land swap and the realignment of Fay Avenue was completed. Within the agreement, the school district would lease the land where the pool was to be built. The pool is not owned nor operated by La Jolla High. Rather, it is operated by the La Jolla Aquatic Complex Foundation, under the direction of aquatic director Randy Franke.

“This is a private pool run for the benefit of the high school and the La Jolla community,” Franke told the


before last year’s Splash Bash. “It’s a unique situation where you have a 50-meter private swimming pool that’s on school district property.”

Though it may be privately run, it is most certainly open to the public.

Franke said the pool serves as many as 1,000 people on a daily basis.

Shelburne got the right people to invest their time in the pool, but had it not been for the Coggan Family and their donation of $1.2 million in the early stages of planning, the pool may have never been built.

“With that money in the bank, we became legitimate,” Shelburne said. “It wasn’t, ‘is this going to happen? Will this happen?’ It was ‘this is happening because we had a million dollars towards the project.’”

Not even a year after the pool broke ground it opened on Sept. 15, 2002.

Roughly 15 years after Shelburne’s big idea, the Coggan Family Aquatic Complex is now the home of the LJHS’ boys and girls water polo and swim teams, La Jolla Water Polo, Wind N’ Sea Swim Club and the La Jolla Swim Masters. It is also used for physical education for both La Jolla High and Muirlands Middle School.

“I think it underscores the need that was there,” Shelburne said. “We knew there was a pool up at the Y on Cliffridge. But it

wasn’t a pool that suited the needs of a

high school.”

Prior to Coggan, student-athletes who swam or played water polo for the high school had to drive to the Lawrence Family Jewish Center for practice each day.

Today’s students couldn’t even comprehend the idea of having to leave campus to go to the pool.

Nor could most La Jollans comprehend not having the Coggan pool and all it has given to the community during the past

10 years.

Celebrating the pool

The Coggan Family Aquatic Complex is celebrating its 10th birthday Saturday, Oct. 6 with a luau staring at 5:30 p.m. Since the pool opened in 2002, it has been host to several world-class events, such as the USA National Team and NCAA teams in addition to hosting CIF championships.

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