demolition of building in progress for new MA aquatic center site

The Aquatic Center will serve Marin Academy students, faculty, and staff in both athletic and academic endeavors while also acting as a bridge to the greater San Rafael and North Bay communities with learn-to-swim and water safety programs.

If you drive or walk by Marin Academy on 5th Avenue or Mission, you will see the beginnings of what will become a much-needed new community resource—a competition-sized swimming pool. Marin Academy, founded in 1971, has long promoted civic responsibility both within and beyond its campus. When the school launched its Vision 2030 Strategic Plan in 2016, it called for a competition-size pool that would offer MA’s scholars/artists/athletes full participation in water sports and wellness programs while creating and strengthening connections between MA and the broader community. As the vision took shape, it became clear that this project was an opportunity to tangibly connect with our neighbors and provide partnerships with community groups and non-profits to increase community access to water safety and wellness opportunities.

The existing pool on campus, a 90-year-old relic from the former San Rafael Military Academy, has not only been the home of Marin Academy’s swim and water polo teams but has also served the community for over 40 years through the school’s partnership with Tamalpais Aquatic Masters, a member club of United States Masters Swimming. Despite the old pool’s small size and age, it also provided valuable access to the community through another Marin Academy partnership, AIM High, a multi-year summer enrichment program offered at no cost to 6th – 9th graders across Northern California. While further collaborations are in discussion, Marin Academy envisions the Aquatic Center as an essential link to the community for desperately needed learn-to-swim, youth sports, and adult fitness programs. 

For Marin Academy students, the pool will provide a capstone experience to its innovative Mind, Body, Brain program. The Mind, Body, Brain program focuses on three pillars of health—physical, mental, and neuroscience/brain. It teaches the importance of creating healthy, lifelong habits and will soon include critical water safety and learn to swim programming for all Marin Academy Students. “I am most excited about the impact that this will have on our entire Aquatics Program. This new facility will not only accommodate all our needs but more importantly will allow our student-athletes to push themselves to new heights and accomplishments—the potential is endless!” said Athletic Director, Rob Rafeh. Mary Collie, Head Coach of the Girls+ Water Polo team for the past 15 years, says, “the water polo program here is thriving, and we’ve outgrown our small four-lane (but striped for five) pool. We are so excited to be able to host games and small tournaments here. With more players interested in Water Polo, we are also eager to return to hosting multi-school clinics for new burgeoning players from public and private high schools in the area.” 

Last week, demolition began on the project that was approved unanimously by the San Rafael Planning Commission and bolstered by an outpouring of community voices. Mike Joyce, CFO of Marin Academy, referred to the broad community support of the project. “Your words were powerful and reinforced an important theme,” he said. “San Rafael and Marin County need more swim lanes to meet the demand of swimmers of all ages. It took a village to get over this hurdle, and the village showed up!” As the vacant office buildings come down at 1530-1534 5th Avenue, community groups, students, and athletes alike will be eagerly awaiting the project’s completion, planned for next spring. As Travis Brownley, Head of School, shared, “Marin Academy is not just in the community, we are of this community. It’s been 20 years since MA started Crossroads to address issues of educational equity and the opportunity gap in the San Rafael community, and our impact continues to expand with Community Action Leadership Council, the Youth Grants Board, and Aim High. We hope to build upon existing relationships and discover new community partnerships.”