Springwood Swim Team faces financial challenges to keep team

Springwood Swim Team faces financial challenges to keep team, community pool, City Swim Meet

For over six decades swimmers and families have taken lessons, competed in meets and socialized at Springwood Swim Club on Concord Blvd. The local club is in danger of losing its swim team and pool if it can’t pay off a loan by March 2025. (Tamara Steiner photo)

CONCORD, CA (Jan. 19, 2024) — Springwood Swim Club has been an integral part of the local recreation swimming scene since the 1960s, but the very existence of the team and its pool on Concord Boulevard are now at serious risk of closure.

At issue is the repayment of a $150,000 loan taken out in 2018 to repair SPW’s deteriorating pool. The club gave back $20,000 that wasn’t spent initially and has made interest payments and brought the principal balance down to $90,000 since then.

Now, without even having a head coach on board for this summer season starting in a couple months, the parent owned and operated club is facing a March 2025 deadline to pay off the remaining loan balance. If it isn’t paid by then, not only will the team go away but the pool and property will be subject to sale.

“With the high cost of PG&E, water and maintenance, we are having a tough time paying off this loan. Quite frankly, I’m not sure if we can make it past this upcoming season with this loan hindering us,” said new Springwood Swim Club president Melanie Bang. Losing the entire 2020 season due to the pandemic further complicated the situation.

Part of Concord’s ­summer swimming fabric

A few years after the Concord Jaycees started the Concord Swimming Championships (popularly called the City Meet) in 1967, Springwood took over operations and it is the team’s largest fundraiser to this day. In the early 1970s the club moved the meet from Concord Community Pool on Cowell Road to its home pool at the corner of Thornwood Drive and Concord Blvd.

In 1996 the meet moved back to Concord Community Pool with much more parking and space for participants and spectators to enjoy the weekend-long festivities.

Over 1000 swimmers from Concord, Clayton, Pleasant Hill, Martinez and Crockett teams take part in the late July or early August City Meet. There was no 2020 meet due to the pandemic and, because of pool scheduling issues the past three years, the City Meet moved to Northgate High School in Walnut Creek, all presenting more challenges for Springwood.

COVID impact

Springwood, one of seven recreation swim teams in Concord, is a parent-run club owned by its members. Three of the seven local teams are located within one mile of each other as Bishop Estates is across Concord Blvd. from Springwood and Forest Park is just down the road adjacent to El Dorado Middle School and Concord High. Gehringer Park is also nearby in Dana Estates.

Bishop Estates pool is owned and operated by the homeowners association while both Springwood and Forest Park swim teams are financially responsible for their pools year-round. Bishop Estates and Springwood have had discussions about a merger of the neighboring teams.

“Many parents work really hard to create wonderful memories for our Sprinters,” Bang said.

The team’s roster last year showed about 40 club members and about 60 on the swim team, which contrasts with 131 Springwood swimmers taking part in the pre-pandemic 2019 City Meet.

“Our numbers have declined in large part due to the pandemic that forced us to close our pool for 2020,” she said. “Once the shutdown was lifted, most of our swimmers left the swimming community or went to other teams.” Other local swim teams experienced a similar drop in swimmers after the COVID-19 lost season.

Ironically, in the midst of this financial strain, Springwood won its first-ever County Meet team championship in Division III at the end of the 2022 season and in 2018 the Sprinters were B Division City Meet champions.

Springwood won the 2002 Concord City A Division championship; the only time Dana Hills of Clayton has been denied that title since 1992.

Not for 1st time

A long-time observer of the recreation swim landscape says in the late 1990s Springwood was rumored to be closing. They recall opposing teams bringing “thank you” cakes to Springwood when they had a meet at the Concord pool that season thanking the club for their years as City Meet host.

This is the second Concord recreation swim team facing a difficult situation in recent times. In 2019 the Walnut Country Swim Team in The Crossings had a dispute with the Cowell Homeowners Association that moved to evict the Concord team from its home pool of over 40 years. Eventually the swim team prevailed and is still part of the local summer rec program.

Finding a path forward

Bang and her family joined Springwood in April 2022 for their daughter to take part. “I’m so glad we enrolled her into the swim team, because not only did she learn a key survival skill, but she also made some everlasting friendships.”

Bang herself jumped right in, volunteering as a shepherd for the 7–8-year-old swimmers. “I also juggled many tasks in the Snack Shack that led me to coordinate and feed 2,500 people at City Meet,” she said. Parent volunteer Dori Frietas successfully organized City Meet for many years but stepped aside after last summer’s meet.

Springwood Swim Team faces financial challenges to keep team
2023 Springwood Swim Team. (Photo courtesy Springwood Swim Club)

In addition to raising membership and swim team fees for 2024, the club has hosted a variety of fundraisers. Board member Marcos Ramos launched a GoFundMe account to “Help Save the Sprinters.”

New club president Bang adds, “Our lead fundraiser Krystie Scull hosted a Cornhole Tournament and Christine Ramos took charge of our 4th of July Silent Auction. We’ve had lemonade stands and swimathons in order to save SPW.

“My daughter Makira even asked for donations to SPW in lieu of birthday gifts from family and friends in order to save it,” Bang told the Pioneer.

A former swim team family provided Springwood with the 2018 loan at 7.5% interest with a 15% penalty if not paid back by the due date. “We can’t refinance this loan through a bank, because we will need one person on the loan and the interest rate is really high right now,” Bang noted.

She has met with former and current Concord mayors Laura Hoffmeister and Edi Birsan about the situation, but the City does not have any grant funds available at this time.

The club is looking into hosting an alumni event to raise more funds, as well as renting out the pool and outdoor space to the public for parties. Membership outreach will also be key to the club’s future.

2024 Season nears

Registration for the club and team starts mid-March. The pool is open to members April through October, and the swim team runs April 8 until the first weekend in August when the County Meet in Lafayette ends the season the weekend after City Meet.

Before registration starts the Sprinters need to find a head coach for this season.

“If the pool closes, it will be a detrimental loss to our swim families and community,” Bang said. “Not to mention, if it’s sold to a developer what could become of Springwood and the trickling effects on the community?”

For more information on Springwood club and swim team membership, email springwoodclub@gmail.com.

Help Save the Sprinters

  • Send checks to Springwood Swim Team, P.O. Box 21394, Concord, CA 94521.
  • Venmo funds to the club treasurer @Dawn-Duke-7 (last 4 digits of confirmation are 7955).
  • PayPal at spwswimclub@outlook.com. (Use send to a friend option or fees get taken out.)
  • Donate at gofundme.com by searching for “Help Save the Sprinters.”
Bev Britton
Bev Britton
Copy Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer | bevbritton@sbcglobal.net

Bev Britton graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of North Dakota and moved to the Bay Area with her soon-to-be husband Jim in 1986. She was features editor at the Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek before becoming managing editor of the Contra Costa Sun in Lafayette in 1995. She retired from newsrooms in 2001, but an ad for the Clayton Pioneer drew her back in. The family moved to Lake Wildwood in the Gold Country a few years ago - but working at the Pioneer keeps her in touch with her old neighborhoods in Concord and Clayton.

Jay Bedecarré
Jay Bedecarré
Sports and Schools Editor at The Concord Clayton Pioneer | sports@pioneerpublishers.com | Website

Jay Bedecarré is a long-time resident and writer in Concord and Clayton. He began his newspaper writing career while still a senior at Mt. Diablo High School and he has been part of The Pioneer since its inception in 2003. Jay also operates Bay Area Festivals, presenting events around the San Francisco Bay Area including Bay Area KidFest annually in Downtown Concord.