Santa Clara Swim Club has produced more Olympic athletes, won more Olympic medals, and placed more champions in the International Swim Hall of Fame (ISHOF) than any other club in the world. So when the Hall of Fame needed a new home for the 21st century, where better to look than Santa Clara?
Two weeks ago, the newly-formed Santa Clara Blue and Gold Ribbon Commission signed a memorandum of understanding with the ISHOF to raise $10 million to relocate the Hall of Fame to Santa Clara, and provide a $2 million endowment for future support. Unofficial discussions have been going on since last year and a location adjacent to the Hilton hotel is currently under consideration.
The ISHOF was established in Fort Lauderdale, FL in 1928. By 1970, it was a major attraction for the city. But by 2000, support declined and the facility fell into disrepair. When a rebuilding project fell through, ISHOF’s leaders decided to move.
With its fabled history in aquatic sports, Santa Clara was a natural destination. The Santa Clara Swim Club was founded and put on the Olympic map by legendary coach George Haines. The Santa Clara Aquamaids and Santa Clara Dive Club followed suit, setting high standards in synchronized swimming and diving. The opening of the George Haines International Swim Center in 1967 made Santa Clara the capital of the swimming world.
Supporters say that the goal for a new Swim Hall of Fame is to be the definitive museum of swimming and aquatic sports – and part of that means an address in a city that has an important connection to aquatic sports history.
As part of that mission, the commission says that it hopes that its efforts will also be a catalyst for rebuilding the Haines International Swim Center – not only to bring back professional competitions, but to expand aquatic activities for local residents as well.
The commission marries star power with solid community roots. Its co-chairs are venture capitalist and UC Trustee (and SCU graduate) Patrick Yam, and 49ers president and former Facebook CFO Gideon Yu.
The committee’s membership also includes builder and philanthropist Steve Schott; former Earthquakes EVP David Alioto; former Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Director Larry Wolfe; Santa Clara Parks & Recreation Commissioner – and a Santa Clara competitive swimmer – Cynthia Owens; and former City Council Member Kevin Moore.
Santa Clara Hilton owner Lawrence Lui has also made a substantial financial commitment to the project. “He has been very supportive of our efforts,” says Yam. “I can’t say enough about his generosity.”
The commission wants to celebrate Santa Clara’s swimming legacy says Yam. “We want to do so in a way that appeals to everyone in the community, and contributes to the lives of everyone from children to seniors. This project has a huge potential for synergy across the community.”