NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – After 37 years in Berkeley Heights, Berkeley Aquatics is moving to New Providence. The new teaching and training facility could become one of the largest on the East Coast, its owner believes.
“I don’t believe there is any privately owned teaching and training facilities that equate with us,” Berkeley Aquatics President Jim Wood said.
The facility will house three indoor pools on 6.8 acres of land at 629 Central Ave.
An existing two-story office building that formerly housed Panasonic employees will be refurbished to accommodate two pools.
An L-shaped pool of 1,500 square feet will be used for swim instruction. Another 20-foot-by-15-foot pool will be used for aqua therapy rehabilitation.
A single story addition consisting of almost 26,600 square feet will abut the existing location on the west side and house a 50-meter Olympic-sized pool that has a recorded history.
In 2004, Berkeley Aquatics purchased one of two above ground prefabricated Olympic sized pools used at the Long Beach, Calif. Olympic trials. The pool can be easily adapted to be placed in-ground, which will be the case in New Providence.
The pool, which can be assembled like a giant “erector” set, has remained in storage. However, about five years ago, thieves broke into the warehouse and stole much of the stainless steel. Wood said the losses were fully insured and the original manufacturer has replaced the stolen parts.
Geo-tech bearing tests will be conducted in early April to test the foundation for the new building, with Wood expressing optimism for a quick construction start.
The facility provides lessons annually to 6,000 swimmers who come from well over 20 New Jersey communities. There are also 330 dedicated competitive swimmers who train at the center.
Wood said that during the course of a year the center hosts several swim meet competitions that include out-of-state teams.
The influx of visitors to New Providence should prove an economic bonanza to all borough merchants, especially lodging and food providers. “We should bring a lot of people to New Providence,” Wood said.
While Berkeley Aquatics has a well-deserved reputation for developing competitive swimmers, Wood said the emphasis is on teaching and giving all people opportunities to reach their potential.
“Our primary goal is not to take young swimmers and make them into great swimmers, but to take young swimmers and make them into great adults,” Wood said.
Wood chuckled when he recalled his very first job as a teenager, when he served as a coach and lifeguard at the New Providence Community Pool.
He excelled in track and field at Union Catholic. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University where he coached and participated in swimming and lacrosse.
After graduation, Wood sought a post-graduate degree and served as an assistant coach at the University of North Carolina, where he eventually became the head men’s and women’s swim coach.
Wood, a 55-year resident of the borough, said he was grateful for the warm welcome he received from New Providence officials and looked forward to continuing the program developed over the last 37 years.