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May 15, 2007 > The Hayward Plunge

The Hayward Plunge

As the weather starts to warm and we move into the summer season, many of us fondly remember our first experiences learning to swim and days spent with friends around a public pool. In the Hayward area, more than likely, those memories are of the Hayward Plunge.

The Plunge was built in Memorial Park along Mission Boulevard by the City of Hayward in 1936 during the Great Depression. It was constructed with $26,000 from Works Project Administration funds of the federal government in concert with almost $70,000 from a local bond issue passed in 1934. The pool was designed by James Norbett of Richmond who drew designs for a similar pool in that community. City water mains were extended to Memorial Park to supply water to the indoor facility. It takes 333,000 gallons of water to fill both the main pool and the "tot" pool for smaller children. A contract to provide swimming suits went to Don Harder who ran a sporting goods store on Main Street and the contract for towels went to E.A. Massa on B Street.

On opening day - August 21, 1936 - over 3,000 people attended the dedication ceremonies. The entrance fee to swim was 25 cents for children and 35 cents for adults; to rent a swimsuit and a towel, it was an additional 45 cents. Ceremonies included an exhibition of swimming and diving by national champions. Councilman Dan Leidig stated in his opening remarks, "The city cannot stand still. This pool marks the beginning of a new era of progress for our city." At its opening, the Plunge was considered one of the most up-to-date swimming facilities in the entire country, with an automatic chlorination system and a heating system designed to maintain a 78 - 82 degree water temperature throughout the year.

Mr. Lynn Clayton Van Houten, a swimming instructor and pool manager of the YMCA in San Francisco was hired to The Hayward Plunge as the very first manager; his monthly salary was $200. Mr. Van Houten, an ex-serviceman and a student at the University of Michigan with previous experience in Banff, Canada, New Jersey, Miami and Santa Monica moved to Hayward and became an integral part of the community. In 1958, he married Cecilia Klee Sorensen, a Hayward native who worked at the Plunge as a cashier, lifeguard and instructor.

Public facilities are always big jobs, but throw in a pool and thousands of users every year and it is a daunting task. In the early days, the Plunge was closed every other year for cleaning, painting and repairs. This usually occurred in the winter months when the pool was less busy.

The Plunge was also a regular host for the Pacific Swimming Championships and Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) meets. A gallery was added to accommodate spectators in 1938 and permanent bleachers were installed in 1941. The Plunge was actually THE place to go swimming for many years until the 1950's when the Hayward Area Parks and Recreation District (HARD) built pools at five high schools in conjunction with the school districts.

During the early years, the Plunge made money. However, by 1970, after years of operating losses, the city turned over the management of the pool to HARD since they were managing the other pools in the area. HARD turned the operation around and has done a superb job running the facility over the past 37 years. They have developed a master plan for the Plunge and continue to improve it as funds become available. In 2002, the Plunge underwent a $460,000 facelift, its first major remodeling since construction. This also included some seismic upgrades with reinforcing steel beams supporting the building and roof by encasing them in concrete at the deck level.

In 2006, exterior painting was completed as The Plunge celebrated its 70th anniversary; the original electric sign was restored and turned on once again. The Hayward Plunge, a long-standing Hayward area institution continues to be a community asset serving multiple generations of Hayward residents.

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