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Union County Improvement Authority Enters into Agreement with
Berkeley Aquatic Club for the Sale of Four Acres at Runnells for $1.6 Million

Berkeley Heights---The Berkeley Aquatic Club has signed an agreement with the Union County Improvement Authority to purchase four acres of land for $1.6 million at Runnells Specialized Hospital that would enable it to build a 40,000 square foot facility that would become one of the premier swim and fitness facilities on the East Coast, Freeholder Chairman Angel G. Estrada announced.

The County would reap funds from the sale of the unused, vacant property in Berkeley Heights, which sits at the lower basin of Runnells Specialized Hospital. Together with Berkeley Heights, the County would gain a soon-to-be determined amount in permanent ratables and tax revenues from the facility. The land, which is owned by the County, is currently tax-exempt.

For its part, the Berkeley Aquatic Club would move from its current location on Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights, and build a 40,000 square foot center for both private and public use that would allow it to remain in Union County and Berkeley Heights.

The new facility would contain a 50-meter pool, a United States Olympic trials swimming pool purchased several years ago. The Berkeley Aquatic Club is planning to build a separate teaching pool, an aqua therapy pool, locker rooms, weight room, offices, conference room, lobby and parking.

“We have been experiencing tremendous growth over the past few years and are forced to turn away students,” said its founder and principal, James Wood. “This will enable us to take our program to the next level of training excellence and provide more children with the opportunity to develop and reach their full potential.”

The Berkeley Aquatic Club would also enter into a partnership with the County’s Runnells Specialized Hospital to provide aqua therapy at the new facility. Aqua therapy is considered to be one of the best therapies for various injuries. Water supports the body, reduces joint stress, and provides resistance and assistance to movement. Patients can improve mobility, strength, and function rapidly during aquatic therapy.

“This is a winning situation for all parties involved,” said Chairman Estrada. “Union County and Berkeley Heights gains tax revenues and ratables, and we both retain and enable a very prominent business to expand and offer improved services to our residents. In addition, the County gains access to aqua therapy services, which will help our residents with rehabilitation.”

The expansion also has the support of Berkeley Heights Mayor David Cohen for similar reasons.

“The Berkeley Aquatic Club already supports hundreds of swimmers in our region and this move will enable them to provide a chance to many more young student athletes with the means to expand their education and fitness,” Cohen said. “Berkeley Heights also realizes a quality of life benefit from having a unique business and community partner like this in our backyard.”

The County, through its agent, the Union County Improvement Authority, will jointly seek with the Berkeley Aquatic Club a subdivision through the Berkeley Heights planning board in September. The purchase of the property itself by the Berkeley Aquatic Club is expected to close by the end of the year.

Berkeley Aquatic Club supports 324 swimmers and 234 families from at least seven local communities. The club was designated by USA Swimming as a Gold Level Club for 2002-2004---only the top 25 swimming clubs in the nation are recognized at this level for club excellence. Over 30 of its members have qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials and have held first place national rankings.

The club is a competitive swim team organization and swim school, and was founded by Wood, a veteran swim coach and entrepreneur, in 1977.