Tuesday, June 25

Spieker Aquatics Center to host its first game Saturday

The multi-level diving structure at the new Spieker Aquatics Center on the Hill was built for the UCLA swim and dive team and the women's and men's water polo teams as well as their club counterparts.

The multi-level diving structure at the new Spieker Aquatics Center on the Hill was built for the UCLA swim and dive team and the women's and men's water polo teams as well as their club counterparts. Nathan Kwok

Nathan Kwok
The UCLA women’s swim and dive team practices in the new Spieker Aquatics Center on the Hill. The facility will play host to Bruin aquatic teams.

After twenty-plus years of speculation and 14 months of physical labor, UCLA’s aquatic sports finally have a new arena to call home. On Saturday, the Spieker Aquatics Center will host its inaugural contest, a men’s water polo match between UC Irvine and UCLA.

The grand opening will reveal the many state-of-the-art features the facility boasts, including a 52-meter pool, dividing bulkhead, diving platform, springboards, men’s and women’s locker rooms, a champion’s board and an LED scoreboard. While there are still a few finishing touches in the works, including the installation of the scoreboard and landscaping details, the complex has been calibrated for its first users.

“The opening of the Spieker Aquatic Center and the Dirks Pool will be a huge boost for our athletics programs,” Senior Associate Athletic Director Ken Weiner said. “(It) will also provide additional recreation time at SAC and the Park pool for staff and students.”

Aside from student-athletes on the men’s and women’s water polo teams, swim and dive team and their club sports counterparts, UCLA students will not be allowed to use the Spieker facility. Dana Dickerson, the aquatics coordinator at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center added the diving board is only for use of swim and dive team.

Built on the premises of Sunset Canyon Recreation Center located in the northwestern corner of campus, the Spieker Center will serve the purposes of the greater UCLA community. It will also host professional athletic events and the Master’s swimming program.

“The upshot for the community is that there will be more access than there ever has been,” Weiner told the Daily Bruin last summer. “Disruptions from a recreational perspective won’t be there in the future. I think it’s a win-win for everyone in terms of aquatic space, recreationally and competition-wise.”

The Spieker Center increases the UCLA community’s accessibility to aquatic resources with the addition of the Olympic-size pool. In order to accommodate the spatial needs of the new complex, the pre-existing tennis and basketball courts were relocated to other sites on the Hill. Tennis courts have been built in place of the two basketball courts previously located behind the Canyon Point dorms. New basketball courts have been built near the Saxon Suites within the last ten months.

Even with the facelift Sunset Canyon has received during these past months, the Spieker Center is not aesthetically competitive with the university’s structural design. The new building was specifically designed to complement the architectural theme of UCLA’s central campus. Brian Pratt of Bauer and Wiley, the architecture firm hired for the project, said creating such an equilibrium was one of the primary challenges of inventing the design.

“We wanted to find a way to keep it simple, fitting up there in a way to hopefully unify Sunset Canyon with the rest of the campus without ruining that great atmosphere up there,” Pratt told the Daily Bruin last summer. “It’s a special place.”

When the site for the facility was being decided 10 to 12 years ago, the original plan was to expand the pool at the Student Activities Center. The plan was deserted quickly, though, as the topographic constraints of the site become apparent.

After two years of recreational surveys, Sunset Canyon was named the designated site for the new aquatic complex.

Upon the project’s completion, Pratt said the firm looks forward to seeing how the new facility will serve the UCLA community now and down the road as it plays a role in creating the UCLA experience.

“The true measure of its success will be how well it functions for UCLA Aquatics, its athletes and its fans,” Pratt said. “We look forward to watching the project evolve over time.”

Tod Spieker and his wife Catherine are the lead donors for the $14 million project. Spieker swam for the Bruins from 1968 to 1971, earning All-America honors in 1969. His brother, Ned, contributed to the funding of Berkeley’s own Spieker Center.

A second leading gift was donated by the Joseph B. Gould Foundation for the construction and naming of Dirks Pool. James Easton, for whom UCLA’s softball stadium is named, also pledged a third gift for the naming of the street to the center.

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