The 25,000-square-foot East Oakland Sports Center (EOSC), site of the city’s only indoor aquatic facility, is undergoing major enhancements funded by four years of grants.
Community Development Block Grants totaling $408,000 dispersed between 2012 and 2015, are funding the future construction of outdoor amenities such as shade structures, picnic tables, benches, a barbecue pit, and the renovation of the tennis courts, swing set pads, the baseball field, bleachers and dugout.
In the future, the EOSC plans to expand by adding an outdoor competition swimming pool, a two-court basketball gymnasium with an elevated running track, three soccer fields and additional parking.
Despite its focus on fun and fitness, the center serves a serious need for improving water safety for children living in the East Bay, an official said.
“Drowning is the leading death for children five and under. Being around aquatic environments, my number one goal is to educate the public about water safety,” said Anthony Schriver, aquatics program director at the EOSC.
According to a 2010 study commissioned by the USA Swimming Foundation and conducted by the University of Memphis, 70 percent of African-American and 60 percent of Hispanic/Latino children do not know how to swim. The foundation website also noted that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by 88 percent among children aged one to four years, according to Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
“I’ve witnessed a teenager and an adult drown before,” Schriver said. “It changed my life forever. Through education and training, we can prevent tragedies like these from happening.”
Located between 98th Ave. and the Brookfield Village and Elmhurst communities, the EOSC has added a full-time staff of program directors and expanded programming since it opened in 2011.
The sports complex’s 9,000-square-foot aquatic park, which has a capacity of 200 people, features a water slide, sprays and dumping buckets, and a two-lane lap area.
The facility’s fitness center and dance studio offer courses in ballet, martial arts, Latin dance, tumbling, gymnastics, jazz, and Hip Hop, along with Pilates, Boot Camp, Yoga, Core and Abs, Aerobics and “Mommy Fit” classes.
“It is nice to know that this space is available and unique in terms of giving programs to communities that they both want and need,” said Martha L. Zepeda, the newly-added recreation program director of cultural arts, who teaches fitness and dance, as well as handling community outreach and social media.
Funding for the EOSC historically came from multiple sources, including $11 million from Measure DD Oakland Trust for Clean Water and Safe Parks, $6 million in Measure WW – East Bay Regional Parks funds, $3 million in Measure I Oakland General Obligation Bond funding, $3 million in State Proposition 40 funds and $2 million from the Oakland Redevelopment Agency.
“We have secured significant grants and have used those funds in all of the program areas,” Harith Aleem, the recreation supervisor for all of the swimming pools in Oakland, said. “We have invested a lot of money in equipment including weights, spin bikes and ballet bars.”
Other major grants and donations that the center has lobbied for and received in the past couple of years have come from community organizations, the Oakland Raiders (NFL Charities), and from Waste Management.
Such contributions have made it possible for the center to offer a wider variety of year-round recreational programming, Aleem said, including spinning, youth soccer, basketball, and expanded fitness with more yoga, Zumba, and aquatic classes.
“A lot of the programs we’ve added cater to what the public has asked us for,” he said. “We still offer ‘Free Fridays,’ which is an opportunity for families and the neighborhood to drop in and try the facility without any financial commitment or responsibility.”