Eichler Swim Club Celebrates its Renewal

Community Center
Many community gatherings take place at the Swim and Tennis Club's community room. Photo by Dave Weinstein

There was time for swimming, celebrating, hobnobbing, and reminiscing as the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club in Palo Alto marked the on-time and within-budget restoration of its swim and community center.

“As a community, you put your money where your collective mouth was,” swim club president Harvey Schloss told the crowd, which included kids who’d clambered out of the pool just to hear a few brief speeches and watch the ceremonial ribbon being ceremoniously cut.

Palo Alto Mayor Nancy Shepherd did the honors.

In fact, the pool had already been operational for two weeks. The club is open to everyone, not just residents of the Palo Verde neighborhood. It has 300 member families, and hosts the Eichler Gators Swim Team.

The $600,000 job involved completely redoing the deck and redoing its utilities. Lynn Drake, a member of the deck committee, said less could have been spent to do a less ambitious job. But members of the club wanted to do a project that would last for another 50 years.

Kids enjoy the pool on its grand opening day. Photo by Dave Weinstein

“We could have easily just skimmed the deck and it would have lasted five years. That’s not the way we wanted to do it,” she said.

Schloss thanked everyone who’d been involved, particularly three “heavy lifters,” co-chairmen of the deck committee, Ken Brownlee and Tim Edmonds, and Eric Horn, the club manager.

He also praised project architect Alex Bergtraun of Studio Bergtraun. “He poured his heart and soul into this project to make it what it was, and what it was supposed to be,” Schloss said.

Drake said much of the challenge involved convincing club members to pony up. Members of the committee divvied up names and made calls. Some were reluctant to contribute, arguing they only played tennis and did not use the pool.

Harvey Schloss, board president, speaks to the gathering. Kim Robins helped organize the celebration. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Helping convince some was the recent closure of another pool in town. The Betty Wright Aquatic Center had to close its warm water pool much loved by seniors because of the prohibitive cost of plumbing and other infrastructure repairs.

“That could be us,” Drake said the organizers of the drive realized, “ if we don’t do something.”

“This is not just a swim center, but a center for community, for culture,” Bergtraun said as he walked through the community room, which is used for meetings, classes, events, parties and more.

Besides redoing the entire deck and restoring the buildings, the project involved new landscaping, a new diving board, and an attractive sail shade that Bergtraun designed.

Jack Hoover recalled the days before the Swim and Tennis Center existed. Photo by Dave Weinstein

No one enjoyed the afternoon more than Jack Hoover, who moved into the neighborhood with his wife when it was new, in 1957. He recalled how the swim and tennis club came to be.

Arlene Chasson, one of his neighbors, “thought the whole thing up.” The site was originally five individual lots to be filled by five Eichler homes.

“OK, Joe, here’s a proposition,” she told Eichler. “Can I sign you up for it?”

Eichler built the center, designed by Jones & Emmons, and turned it over to the new club in 1958. “We had total control of it the minute we stepped in,” says Hoover, who served as the center’s house and grounds chairman for many years.

The center began with one area for tennis courts. Today it has two. That’s because an empty lot behind the pool that was owned by the city was destined to be filled with an electrical substation.

Hoover thought that would be a poor neighbor for the pool. “I wrote the city, if you ever decide you don’t need that land we might be interested in purchasing it.”

The substation got built elsewhere.

Joe Eichler himself was at the swim center’s opening. Did he ever swim in the pool?

“Joe?” Jack asks. “Oh? Are you kidding!”

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