Plunge edges toward completion
on February 26, 2010
June Albonico walked briskly into the building, pivoted right and climbed the stairs, negotiating the winding electrical chords and scattered work equipment.
She gazed down from the upstairs terrace, surveying the cavernous, empty pool.
“How are those tiles coming?” she hollered down to a construction worker knelt down in what will soon be the pool’s deep end.
“They’re coming,” he said, craning his head upward.
Albonico was born in 1926, the same year workers finished erecting tons of wood and concrete into the facility in which she stood.
The Point Richmond Plunge’s entrance, with its regal, refinished, classic Greek columns, greeted Albonico Thursday, just like they had when her father first took her to swim at the Point Richmond Plunge around 1930.
She still has the run of the place.
“I come by sometimes just to see how the work is going,” she said.
The Plunge, Point Richmond’s historic pool facility, will reopen this year. It was closed in 2001, when city leaders determined they could not afford costly retrofits to the building, which was structurally unsound after the 1989 Bay Area earthquake. Since the closure, private money from local community groups has been leveraged with public funds to refurbish the facility.
A controversial component of the restoration, a $350,000 bulkhead approved by a divided council late last year, along with work delays, have marked the project. Councilman Tom Butt, a stalwart ally of the Plunge, said he can’t be sure when it will reopen.
“Last I heard it would be ready in April, but I don’t think they’re going to make it,” Butt said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it was done in May or June.”
Workers on Thursday labored on the concrete floor of the dry, 300,000-plus gallon capacity pool. Overhead shower pipes hung in the locker rooms. New toilets were mounted in the walls. The wood skeleton of the greeting kiosk stood firm in the lobby.
Albonico wandered through the unfinished project, stopping at one point on what will soon be the pool-side deck. She was a swim teacher for more than four decades at the Plunge beginning in 1956, and she vows to be teaching children there yet again on Opening Day 2010.
“Back in the ’60s, this whole pool, all the way around, would be lined with children, just so many you couldn’t believe,” Albonico said, smiling and looking across the empty pool. “There probably won’t be that many this time, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
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Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are waiting to join her in the plunge. The plunge has been a part of our family all my life.