Walnut Creek, JCC get together to build joint-use gymnasium

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With the Contra Costa Jewish Community Center supplying the land and the city of Walnut Creek injecting the money, plans are underway for a joint-use gymnasium for local residents.

This is the largest project ever to come from a partnership between a municipality and a Jewish community center, according to Contra Costa JCC executive director Josh Malks. The money has been approved, the construction OKd and a scale model put together for the new gym, to be located adjacent to the JCC.

"The Jewish Community Center clearly was not in a position to pay for construction by itself and the city's gymnasium project would have been smaller if they had to buy the land. That made it a good win-win project," Malks said.

When the Contra Costa JCC moved to its current site 12 years ago, center directors had intended to build a gym on the 110-by-250-foot empty lot that now lies behind the JCC's auditorium and next to its swimming pool. But with less-than-anticipated funds coming from Jewish community federations, the JCC could not afford to go through with the plan.

The $4.7 million that the city approved last July for construction of the gym, however, facilitated the plan's revival.

As designed by RDS Associates of San Francisco and Glass Architects of Santa Rosa, the 29,000 square-foot gymnasium will be air conditioned for year-round temperature control, Malks said. Off to one side of the semicircular glass lobby will be three full-sized basketball courts that can be separated by electronically operated roll-down dividers. Off to another side of the lobby will be a classroom and an aerobics studio.

The setup allows for simultaneous, multiple uses. For example, three basketball games can take place at once in the main part of the gym — or a basketball game, a volleyball game and an exercise class. At the same time, a classroom full of children can enjoy day care, while an aerobics class with a modern sound system can proceed in full blast nearby.

In an arrangement agreed upon by the city of Walnut Creek and the JCC, and approved unanimously by the Walnut Creek City Council in March, the gym will be open at least seven days a week, 12 hours per day.

The city will get the lion's share of time at the new facility. But with five different courts and classrooms available for use, the JCC will get at least 50 hours a week of time in at least one segment of the gym, Malks said.

How the JCC will utilize that time is something center directors are still discussing. They're considering basketball leagues for adults and children, volleyball leagues, gymnastics training and possibly a program in cardiac maintenance, Malks said.

For the city of Walnut Creek "it's a terrific deal," said Kern Hildebrand, the city's leisure services superintendent.

Walnut Creek has long needed another gymnastics facility, Hildebrand said. Volleyball, basketball and other sports teams now have enough time in existing city facilities for official league games, but no time for practicing, Hildebrand said.

Walnut Creek already has a joint-use arrangement with Foothill Middle School. That arrangement is so successful, Hildebrand said, that Foothill's gym is now the most heavily used gymnasium in the Mount Diablo Unified School District.

For the JCC project, the city still must hire a construction company and work up a set of blueprints. But planners hope that construction can begin by the fall and foundations can be set before the rainy season begins, Malks said.

If everything goes according to plan and construction can continue through next winter, the gym will open in October 1997.