Public Comment

New: Save the Warm Pool and Build on the Football Field Instead

By Terry Cochrell
Saturday June 05, 2010 - 02:47:00 PM

Seven hundred, 700 swimmers use the warm-pool at BHS, not just a few dozen as detractors insist in print and in whispered anti-warm-pool propaganda. My figure includes hard data: the ‘captured’ names of articulate and literate users over a 17 month period, plus a conservative, rational estimate of ‘uncaptured’ names. 

About one hundred of these counted warm-pool users are parents of pre-literate, pre-articulate children; these latter babies are not counted; thus that 100 really is 200. The 700 could therefore be said to be 800. 

Five hundred fifty people gave me their names (on paper!) for an ongoing letter or newsletter supporting saving the warm-pool (at least until something equal is ready-to-use) ; about thirty decided not to give me their names. My collecting of names continues as conditions permit. 

While I busy myself with my swim routines, I notice every day new people whom I have never seen before and whom I hope to ’capture’ when I am better prepared to chat with them; (they number at least one hundred twenty). This is true for every program of which I am aware at the pool, of which there are several, public and private. 

My collected data does not include place-of-residence. Estimates vary there and I do not care to guess what percentage resides in Berkeley. 

Retention of therapy and recreation resources such as the existing warm-pool seems to me to be essential for the public good, generally speaking, and should seem essential to anyone who is at all rational, especially given the numbers above presented. 

Regional parks and city parks in the east bay employ tens of thousands of acres of land. On the market, land here goes for hundreds of thousands of dollars per acre. Parks here thus are worth billions of dollars. Maybe there are ten acres here and there that could be sold for emergency funds from time to time. 

Our warm-pool uses five thousand square feet, about one seventh of an acre. The football field consumes over two hundred thousand square feet, about six acres. 

Let us discuss, rhetorically, selling the football field; a high-rise developer would very likely fork over a handy few million bucks. 

In the ongoing spirit of sacrificing one community for the sake of another, as we observe where BUSD’s directors feel justified pulling the rug out from under the 700-800 warm-pool users, I suggest that the dangerous sport of BHS childrens’ football be abandoned and their field be sold to the highest bidder, rezoned of course for commercial use. (Regarding football, please see recnt letter enclosed below.) 

Taxes and bond-issues could thereby be forgotten for a moment, perhaps until our ramshackle economy again rears its ugly head and gets to its hoofed feet. 

The Real Cost of Football  

The public schools, BUSD, builds a new stadium as you read this, now, …mostly for football games at BHS, ironically just as the bottom drops out of funds for freshman sports. But just think: another sparkling new building to brag about. BHS is right up there with UC Berkeley regarding stadia, bread and circuses. 

And ironically again this work begins as we just begin to understand scientifically, at the deepest level of truth, the damage football causes to the brains of players, now suspected of being typical, universal, unavoidable, irreversible, and disgusting. 

Who is most guilty of supporting this blissfully ignorant, vile, continuing slow murder of young athletes, right here in Berkeley? Regents? School boards, coaches, parents, friends? All the above? 

Swimming pools are highly efficient ways of providing exercise options. …And lots of chances for spectator enjoyment at competitions. 

Compare the local high school, BHS (city-run) warm-pool’s much greater real-estate efficiency with that of the football field (plus associated areas adjacent), which latter adds-up to an area of about two-hundred-fifty thousand square-feet, used by a couple or three dozen people at a time at the most, (as I have witnessed hundreds of times over a time span of fifteen years). 

The warm-pool room at BHS is just five thousand square-feet, one-fiftieth or two percent as large as the football plus track fields, which latter consumes half of the city block between Bancroft and Channing. 

The football field area and vicinity is thus fifty times larger than the warm-pool room, and probably football is at least fifty times as dangerous as swimming if not more. 

Six percent of retired NFL football players suffer from dementia caused by repeated head injuries, concussions. All examined brains showed tau-protein damage in deceased players. This is per major articles in the New Yorker and the journal Science. (Malcolm Gladwell wrote “Offensive Play,” in Oct 19, 2009 New Yorker, p50, 10 pages. Greg Miller wrote “A Late Hit for Pro Football Players,” 7 Aug 2009 in Science, p670, vol 325, 3 pages.( [1] )) Also a channel nine report on the news hour, 29 Oct 2009. 

Should we consider the benefits to spectators? Football is a so-called spectator sport. All those cheering, mostly sedentary spectators make football fields and stadia more efficient, one might claim. 

But let us talk about beneficial meaningful and regular exercise for users, mostly just students per unit ofarea. Let us argue that 100 students per day benefit from the 250 thousand square feet at the football field area, vicinity, and 100 pool-users per 5, five thousand square feet . 

This gives us a clear, useful picture: 100/250,000 field, vs. 100/5,000 pool. These give us 2500 feet of territory per football player or runner, the size of a house , vs. 50, fifty feet per swimmer, about 7x7, about the size of a big bed. The cost of the real estate per football athlete is therefore about fifty times the cost per swimmer. 

All the longstanding American glorification of the dangerous sport of football does little to deal with obesity and diabetes now plaguing more average young people, while excellent exercise such as swimming is largely ignored and avoided by schools, perhaps to the students’ eventual great, heartbreaking, expensive peril. 

Why do we insist on devoting huge area per football-athlete to do his entertaining thing and tiny area for the more average seated studious pupil to learn? The sedentary students receive compensating benefits one might argue; but sadly, required healthy, regular, pleasant exercise like swimming appears not to be one such benefit. 

Gladwell compares football to dogfighting: “The emotions of the dogs are conspicuous, but… the passions of the owners of the dogs… their fondness for these fighters is manifest.” 

The author, Gladwell is pessimistic: “There is nothing to be be done so long as fans stand and cheer. We are in love with football players, with their courage and grit… nothing can compete with the destructive power of that love.”  

This is appalling, horrific. This is sacrifice, demanding that young men give their lives in gladiatorial displays for the ignoble pleasure of gamblers and blood-thirsty spectators. I retch. 

[1] Science is the most read and respected journal of science; 3 pages constitute a major article. 


Terry Cochrell is a disabled,Berkeley retired architect.