New aquatic center to replace historic Taylor Pool at Occidental College

Rendering of the new De Mandel Aquatic Center | Courtesy Occidental College


EAGLE ROCK — The Taylor Pool at Occidental College has hosted countless water polo matches and sporting events  since it debuted in 1930. It’s also been a convenient place for students to cool off during summer heat waves. But by the end of next year, Taylor Pool — one of the oldest collegiate swimming pools in the U.S. — will have been filled in and replaced by a new aquatics center that will be constructed nearby.

The pool and surrounding building was designed by Myron Hunt, the legendary architect whose firm also created the the campus master plan and also designed many other buildings at the Eagle Rock college.

As with many octogenarians, the Taylor Pool—named in honor of class of 1929 alum Mary Barbara Taylor and her parents— has worn the passing of the intervening decades less than gracefully.

“It’s too small and too shallow,” said Jim Tranquada, Occidental College’s Director of Communications and Community Relations in an interview last week. “It really limits the abilities of our swimming, diving, and water polo teams to practice and to play.”

Occidental’s divers, for example, are currently unable to use the facility because it’s not deep enough.

“When the pool opened, diving boards were made out of plywood,” explained Tranquada. “Now they’re made out of fiberglass, which means you get much higher in the air. Taylor is simply not deep enough to dive safely with fiberglass. In fact, there are no diving boards on deck there now.”

Instead, the diving team is forced to practice and hold their home games a few miles away at the Rose Bowl Aquatic Center in Pasadena.

Debates on improving or tearing out the Taylor Pool have been ongoing at the college since the 1970s. However, it was only in recent years that the money lined up to fund such a project.

“[Occidental] had a generous lead gift, it was an estate gift,” Tranquada said of the contribution by the estate of  Ranier De  Mandel, whose name the new facility will bear. “This is a project that is being primarily paid for by gifts for the specific purpose [of building the pool].”

The De Mandel Aquatic Center, designed by Moule & Polyzoides, will be constructed near Taylor Pool at an estimated cost of $17 million. It’s main pool will be larger and deeper than Taylor Pool and it will also include a smaller recreational pool and grandstand seating.

Taylor Pool itself will be filled in, based on current plans. The former pool and the arcaded building that surrounds it will be used as as multipurpose outdoor space, said a college press release.

“I think we’re just excited to just get that pool up already,” Tranquada said. “But as much as it will be a college resource, it’ll also be a community resource as well.”

But don’t start practicing that swan dive just yet. The tentative opening date for the De Mandel Aquatic Center is set for fall 2018.

Néstor Castiglione is a journalist born and raised in Los Angeles who also writes and lectures on classical music and the popular music of Japan, 1925 – 1945.

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