Junior Olympics Come to Riverside, Aquatic Complex Adds New Admirers

The Riverside Aquatics Complex has truly raised the bar for aquatic sports in the Inland Empire and Southern California. In just 18 months the world class facility has already staked the claim as an outstanding venue for major competitions and events.

The RAC hosted the 2012 CIF Southern Section swimming and diving competition from May 7th-12th and the 2012 Southern California Swimming Summer Junior Olympics from July 25th-29th. The Complex is continuing to build this reputation with several other national and international competitions already booked for the near future. 

(The following is an article by Greg Patton as published in the Press-Enterprise on July 27, 2012)

The facilities? Great.

The pool? Fast.

The organization of the meet? Terrific.

Junior Olympics swimmers compete underneath
the flag at the Riverside Aquatics Complex

But those aren’t the only things that impressed Jason Schwarz, head coach of the Los Angeles Swim Club, who brought 50 of his athletes to compete in the massive 2012 Southern California Swimming Summer Junior Olympics at the Riverside Aquatics Complex this past week.

Some of his kids actually were hanging out in the lobby of the Mission Inn, reading about its history. What? And taking walks around downtown. Huh?

“You know how it is with teen-aged boys,” said Schwarz, and we do. “Sometimes they just sit in their rooms with their Xboxes. We’re real pleased coming out here.”

That should come as anecdotal gold to organizers of the meet, as well as city, county and Riverside City College officials – all of whom were hoping that the RAC would have this kind of synergistic effect.

That a new, high-end complex on the RCC campus would attract a variety of large events. That it would develop an image for Riverside as a pool-sports Mecca. That it would boost the number of visitors, and create a favorable impression of the city.

It’s early – the RAC only opened 18 months ago – but so far, it’s looking good.

Emily Longfellow of Redlands Swim Team
goes through her 400 IM paces

The facility’s calendar is filling up nicely. In addition to swimming events, such as the recent CIF Southern Section meet and the Junior Olympics, there are synchronized swimming, water polo and diving events on tap. Among them are a national masters water polo tournament next year and an international synchronized swim event in 2014.

“I’ve wanted competition water in this city for 40 years,” said Debbi Guthrie, director of the new Riverside Sports Commission, and once a nationally ranked member of the Riverside AQuettes. “This is going to be a huge economic driver.”

Some 900 swimmers from the Southland and Nevada are in town for the five-day Junior Olympics, helping fill 600 room-nights at local hotels.

The key to this whole enterprise, of course, is the RAC itself. As soon as it was built, it was among a handful of unique pool complexes in the Southland. Its amenities are the multiple diving platforms; the large amount of deck space around the long-course pool to accommodate team tents and spectators; the two scoreboards; the nine competition lanes; and the three auxiliary pools providing 17 lanes for warm-ups and cool-downs.

“I’m thoroughly impressed,” said Travis Tyler, coach of the Boulder City-Henderson (Nevada) Swim Team, who enjoyed bringing his swimmers somewhere other than the usual venues, like Mission Viejo and Irvine. “There are clusters of swimmers around each complex, and this opens up another avenue. It’s good to come to a different locale and (compete against) different swimmers, but the same caliber. Actually, they’ve been faster, so far.”

Swimmers relax between Junior Olympics
races at Riverside Aquatics Complex

In fact, the pool has been producing strong times. That’s a big plus for accomplished athletes like the 5-to-18-year-olds who qualified for the Junior Olympics.

Said Tyler, “If there’s a history of fast times, (swimmers) feel comfortable. They want to come back.”

“Kids train all year looking at one (qualifying) number,” said meet director Shari Chun, of the host Riverside Aquatics Association, which also helps manage the use of the complex. “We hope they like coming here.”

No problem.

“If there’s an opportunity for us to come back, we will,” said Schwarz of his LA team.

Hometown athlete Seva Eagle, of the Redlands Swim Club and Riverside King High School, said he’s heard good things about the venue from his competition, too.

“I am kinda proud of it,” said Eagle. “It’s a pool everyone wants to go to.”

And once they get the swimmers here, who knows?

“It introduces people to a town they probably don’t know much about,” said Tim Sharpe, an assistant with the LA Swim Club. “There’s great history here. I’m sure I’m not the only one who cares about that kind of thing.”

Whatever makes you happy, RAC’s cadre of public and private caretakers are just glad their pool is making a splash.

Follow Gregg on Facebook or Twitter, or click here to go to the original article.

Riverside is known for big city recreation with a hometown feel and the Riverside Aquatic Center is a state-of-the-art venue available for the entire community to enjoy. As the first 65-meter competition pool in the Inland region, the RAC is a world-class training facility and location of choice for competitive swim, dive, and water polo teams and individual athletes in the Inland Empire. The complex is also recognized as an excellent venue for both national and international competitions and events that attract visitors from across the country and exposes them to the wonderful amenities that Riverside has to offer. The RAC also helps address the growing need for sports medicine and water fitness classes, and swimming education and recreation programs for the community. 

Olmstead-Designed Fairmount Park one of America’s Great Places and a Gem for Riverside

Susan Straight is a Riverside native (and still lives here), a professor at UCR, and an award-winning writer. She has published seven novels and one middle-grade reader. Her book Highwire Moon was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2001 and A Million Nightingales was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2006.  Her short stories and essays have appeared in highly acclaimed magazines and she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to work on her novel Highwire Moon, and a Lannan Prize was an immense help when working on Take One Candle Light a Room.

Photo: Douglas McCulloh
Photo: Douglas McCulloh

Among all of her accomplishments she also writes a column titled, “Notes of a Native Daughter” for KCET’s “SoCal Focus”, a daily blog about the people, places and issues in and around Southern California. In her July 13, 2012 article titled “Olmsted Planned Park in Inland California Lives On“, Straight writes a wonderful commentary on the City of Riverside’s historic Fairmount Park in which she reflects on her own memories and experiences in the park and illustrates the eternal beauty of the Olmstead legacy both past and present.

The following is an excerpt from her article:

On hot summer days, they gather at the edges of Lake Evans: fishermen, serious and casual, in their folding chairs, with their lines slanted into the water at their feet, waiting for carp or catfish; lovers holding hands on a bench, and a long-married couple sipping on iced coffees; a young couple having that early conversation that might lead to love; platoons of kids on bikes circling around the road under the ancient cypress trees that were chosen by the famous Olmsteds, New Yorkers who designed the park in 1911.

In the 1920s | Photo: Courtesy Steve Lech/Riverside Historical Society
In the 1920s | Photo: Courtesy Steve Lech/Riverside Historical Society

Fairmount Park, in Riverside, is one of the great parks of the nation. People might laugh at that, but we can claim Olmsted heritage, and the grand democratic principles that led Frederick Law Olmsted to design America’s most famous urban landscapes, including New York’s Central Park, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and the park jewels of Chicago, Boston, Milwaukee, Detroit, Montreal, and yes, Riverside.

This is not just a city lake and areas of grass beside it. The 275-acre grounds included elegant boathouses, a bandshell, an amusement park with a carousel, a lawn-bowling club, and arched bridges over the water. When I was a child, in the 1960s, all those elements made this exactly the everyman’s heaven Olmsted wrote about.

Read the full article “Olmsted-Planned Park in Inland California Lives On” by Susan Straight, on KCET.org 

Fairmount Park located at 2601 Fairmount Boulevard, is bounded by the Santa Ana River to the west and Route 60 to the north and serves as a brilliant example of Riverside’s beautiful, dynamic and interconnected network of parks, trails and recreation facilities available for residents to enjoy year-round.

In 2011, the American Planning Association listed Fairmount Park as one of the Great Places in America: Public Spaces and City Parks Alliance wrote that revitalization efforts in Fairmount Park “exemplified the catalytic power of parks to transform urban areas”. The Park features a bandshell, two tennis courts, a Universally Accessible Playground, picnic facilities, fishing access, a golf course, lawn bowling green, barbecues and a restored boathouse with rental petal boats (handicapped accessible). A great place to come for visitors, family picnics, community concerts and celebrations. Another quality that makes Riverside a highly desirable place to live, work, and play.

United Way of Inland Valleys Honors the Community

Each year, United Way of the Inland Valleys (UWIV) recognizes those companies and organizations that have supported their annual fund drive and for the last few years, in recognition that what is done with the money is more important than how much is raised, UWIV has begun recognizing people and organizations that are making a difference in the community. As the organization has been changing its model and working more collaboratively with the broader community, they have begun to recognize entities that are not traditional members of the United Way family.

“This year has been one of the most challenging and amazing in our United Way’s history,” President/CEO Kevin McCarthy said. “Not only did the community step up to the plate to raise nearly $3.1 million in campaign funds to support critical needs for the next year, but the organization had tremendous success with three initiatives.” These initiatives include: the Live United Showcase art and talent competition for at-risk high school students, the Shades Financial Literacy program for foster youth, and the first Student United Way in California.

Seizing Our Destiny Champions Stan Morrison, Security Bank of California, and Damien O’Farrell, Path of Life Ministries and Pick Group, accept the award on behalf of the Steering Committee.

On Thursday June 28, 2012: the Seizing Our Destiny Steering Committee was a recipient of the United Way Quality of Life Award presented at the organization’s annual Celebration Awards Ceremony.

McCarthy says Seizing Our Destiny was given the Quality of Life award because the campaign is an example of those entities who are striving to make a difference in our community:

“We chose the Seizing Our Destiny effort this year, because we believe it exemplifies our own goal of “Live United”.  Seizing Our Destiny has brought concerned folks together from all over Riverside to work together to shape our own economic future, rather than depending upon state or federal governments to ride to our rescue.  This typifies the kind of “can do” spirit United Way wants to foster and encourage.   We are seeking partners with drive and vision to enhance our own efforts to advance the common good.”

One of the youngest yet most influential groups present at the awards ceremony was the Student United Way @ UCR. The club is celebrating its one year anniversary and has already made many groundbreaking and revolutionary accomplishments in such a short period of time. Club Founder and President, Caasi Algazi and Hoa T. Bui (who recently flew to Nashville, Tenn. to accept two globally recognized awards for the club for their volunteer efforts and social media marketing) accepted the Community Innovator Award on behalf of the students who have shown the community how to “LIVE UNITED” through over 4,900 hours of volunteer service in its first year.

United Way emphasizes the need to bring people together in new and different ways by identifying gaps and finding ways to bridge them. The work done by UWIV and those organizations they have recognized is an example of our desire to become a more unified community, joining together to improve our quality of life and  promote the common good.

Read full article about the United Way Annual Celebration Awards Ceremony from the July, 13 2012 Press Enterprise article.

Read more about the Student United Way @ UCR’s accomplishments.

New Mobile App Allows Residents and Visitors to Explore Riverside’s Destinations

The City of Arts and Innovation is a location of choice for all, offering wide range of destinations to suit anyone’s taste. The Explore Riverside mobile app was developed to provide Riverside residents and visitors with information on restaurants, shopping and entertainment as well as current location directions to get you where you want to go. The mobile app  is now available for free download on the iPhone and Android smartphones.

Download the Explore Riverside mobile app by searching for ”Explore Riverside” in both the iTunes App Store and in the Android Market on your smartphone.

Whether it be a place to stay, shop, dine, or play – Riverside has something for everyone. The new mobile app allows you to explore your options in a matter of minutes to find just what you are looking for.

Riverside Partners with TriState CDC to Help Grow Local Businesses

New and small businesses are the backbone of most local economies; a vibrant business community and a skilled workforce are essential elements of strong local economies. A central piece of the City’s Economic Development Plan is ensuring that local businesses want to stay and grow in the community and region.

On July 31, 2012, the City of Riverside and AmPac TriState CDC will launch their newest resource for small business owners operating in the City of Riverside.  The Riverside Micro Loan program will be available to assist local small business owners with developing, maintaining, and growing lucrative businesses. Developed through a collaborative partnership between the City of Riverside and AmPac TriState CDC, this program is a reflection of the City’s Business First philosophy and exemplifies Riverside’s efforts to help businesses thrive and create local jobs.

The Riverside Micro Loan is available to small business owners in the City of Riverside who are seeking micro-growth capital for expansion, relocation costs, major purchases and other business needs. The Micro Loans range from $5,000 to $10,000 with interest rates fixed for up to 36 months. To qualify, the business must have existed for at least 6 months in the City of Riverside, project profitability, and have a worthy credit history.

To learn more about the Riverside Micro Loan, small business owners are encouraged to attend the informational “Kick Off” on July 31, 2012 at 5:00 pm at City Hall. This is an invaluable opportunity to hear firsthand from AmPac TriState CDC officials about the program and have questions answered by the experts about specific qualifications and terms.  Download a copy of the Micro Loan event flyer here.

Riverside’s Business First policy makes the City of Arts and Innovation a location of choice for a wide range of businesses. The new Riverside Micro Loan Program will build on the City’s commitment to giving small businesses, large companies and budding entrepreneurs alike the tools, information and guidance they need to thrive and create jobs in Riverside. The Program will serve as a catalyst for innovation among the City’s cutting-edge businesses and leaders by providing valuable resources that enable them to have a profoundly positive impact on the region.

To learn more about the Riverside Micro Loan Program visit the Office of Economic Development website.

Give Big Riverside Campaign Encourages Local Philanthropy

Give Big Riverside is a 24-hour online giving event engaging donors for the benefit of local nonprofits.

The Community Foundation Serving Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, in cooperation with a community task force is organizing the pilot Riverside Online Giving Day as an opportunity for Riverside nonprofits to collaborate under one gateway to inspire new and recurring donations from Riverside residents to local charities. Give BIG Riverside is modeled after similar ‘days of giving’ in Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and in California most recently Give Big San Diego, which raised nearly $2.4 million.

Efforts to spur local philanthropy have been hampered by several factors. While Riverside’s nonprofits are struggling to meet increasing demand for services, local, state and federal funding sources are also diminishing. In particular, educational, recreational, arts and cultural services have been severely impacted by the diversion of resources to meet basic needs. These art and cultural activities are personally enriching, and they also make Riverside a more unified city through significant contributions to economic and community vitality.

Festivals and events, performances, and visual and written art make a significant contribution to the local economy; they create jobs and provide important benefits to economic development, tourism, education, and community wellness, all key players in Riverside’s innovative economy. Each of these areas of vitality creates ripple effects that contribute to a stronger business environment, an increased tax base and an improved quality of life for residents.

To meet the economic challenges of today, nonprofits must seek innovative ways to connect donors (new and repeat) in order to sustain these “safety net” services and to continue providing quality and much needed services in our community.

The goals of Riverside’s first online giving day are:

  • Raise $500,000 dollars for at least 200 nonprofits.
  • Secure cumulative matching gifts of $87,000 from sponsors & private foundations
  • Train nonprofits in ongoing donor cultivation and online fundraising tactics, including effective use of social media

Give BIG Riverside asks local residents to understand that there is a crisis in their own community and that their help is essential. By donating to local nonprofits, Riversiders are directly contributing to efforts that improve our quality of life. The work of these nonprofits helps ensure that the community is one that serves as a catalyst for innovation and intelligent growth and one that continues to thrive as a unified city and a location of choice.

Through the Give Big Riverside online campaign, Riverside will enjoy long term benefits that help expand the philanthropic culture and increase civic engagement; promote long term fundraising capacity, maximize marketing potential and economic growth.

Visit giveBIGriverside.org to learn more about the campaign and how you can get involved!

Shop Local, Shop Riverside!

$hop Riverside is a City of Riverside awareness campaign designed to educate residents on the benefits of shopping locally. Not only does it support small business owners in Riverside and help to create more jobs for our residents, but for every dollar you spend in the City, 1% goes back to the community to support city services, such as police, fire, museum exhibits, youth programs, libraries and much more!

When you shop locally, you are increasing your investment in your community and ultimately improving your quality of life. So, make your dollars count by supporting city services! 

As an added benefit, you can be rewarded by shopping local through the $hop Riverside Community Card that provides additional discounts while serving as a fundraising source for local school and non-profit organizations. The card has more than 200 participating local businesses and provides a wide range of special offers for the cardholder…from dining to shopping to relaxing at a spa, you can find businesses all over Riverside that will be proud to honor your card.  You can purchase the Community Card for $15 from several Riverside schools or online at SmartRiverside.com. (View the full list of locations to purchase the card and more details on the $hop Riverside program)

Looking for places to shop in Riverside? The city is a location of choice for some of the greatest shopping in the Inland Empire. Riverside residents and visitors can enjoy a wide variety of retail and shopping opportunities throughout the City. Shoppers can experience everything from Riverside’s charming downtown stores and boutiques to specialty shops at the newly renovated Riverside Plaza as well as top brand-name stores at the Galleria at Tyler and other nearby shopping centers. From specialty retailers to nationally recognized stores, Riverside has it all.

Before you go shopping be sure to visit ExploreRiverside.com to find all that Riverside has to offer!

Mayor Loveridge Launches WalkRiverside Neighborhood Fitness Challenge

Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge invited all Riverside residents, from each of the City’s 26 neighborhoods, to participate in the WalkRiverside Summer Warm Up fitness challenge with a kickoff and website launch event on Sunday, July 15, at the Fairmount Park Band Shell.

Following the kick off festivities Riversiders joined the Mayor and their neighbors for a group walk around Fairmount Park to officially begin the challenge. The two goals for the challenge are to encourage individuals to walk 100 miles in nine weeks and for neighborhoods to collectively log as many miles as they can in that time frame.

“The WalkRiverside challenge is the perfect opportunity to bring our community together to enjoy our award winning parks and trails and promote fitness as a fun activity”, said Mayor Ron Loveridge. “I look forward to supporting our 26 neighborhoods to become Fit Fresh & Fun.”

From July 15 to September 15, Riverside residents will log onto WalkRiverside.com, join a neighborhood group and receive instant feedback on their personal progress as well as view a leaderboard that shows which of the 26 Riverside neighborhoods have logged the most miles.

The winner with the title of “Riverside’s Fittest Neighborhood” will be formally announced on September 15 at the launch of the Start R.I.G.H.T. (Riverside Is Getting Healthy Together) Campaign. Start R.I.G.H.T. is hosted and lead by the Riverside Community Health Foundation. As part of Fit Fresh, & Fun, the Start R.I.G.H.T. Campaign is a citywide initiative to provide education and opportunities to improve the obesity rates of the residents of Riverside – specifically to reduce the obesity and overweight percentages of Riverside residents to less than 50% in five years.

For more information visit the Fit, Fresh and Fun Website.

Read full article, City of Riverside News Release for July 12, 2012.

Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce Awarded the 2012 President’s Circle Award

The California Chamber of Commerce has recognized the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce (GRCC) along with 22 other chambers of commerce with the 2012 President’s Circle award. This award was presented to GRCC at the Thursday, July 12 Good Morning Riverside by Steve Snyder (CalChamber Vice President – Local Chamber Relations). The award, first presented in 2009, recognizes chambers for excellence in business advocacy and helping their members comply with California employment laws. GRCC has been a recipient of the award for four consecutive years.

Riverside is proud to have such an active Chamber, engaged in activities throughout the City including taking an active leadership role in Seizing Our Destiny. Cindy Roth, President and CEO of the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce  is very involved with strengthening the local economy, including taking an active leadership role in Seizing Our Destiny, the community-driven plan for Riverside’s innovative future.

Visit the GRCC website to learn more about their functions.

Fox Foundation’s “Students at Broadway Program” Receives $20,000 Grant

E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation awarded a $20,000 grant to the Fox Riverside Theater Foundation. This is the Carpenter Foundation’s second grant to the organization. Frank Vasicek, local representative of the Carpenter Company, presented the $20,000 to the Fox Foundation Board of Directors at a reception following the Friday, July 13, screening of the classic film Casablanca, which kicked off the Fox Performing Arts Center’s Bogart Fridays Film Fest.

The funds will be used to subsidize tickets for the Fox Foundation’s Students at Broadway program, which offers students the opportunity to view a Broadway show and experience a “Cast Chat” after the performance.

Cynthia Wright, Interim Executive Director of the Fox Foundation, said that the friends who support the Students at Broadway program are giving to the core of the Foundation’s mission.

“This Carpenter grant goes straight to the ‘inspire’ element of our mission,” she said. “Kids are exposed to the wonder of live theater – kids who might otherwise not have the opportunity, and we are so grateful for the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation’s investment in their dreams.”

The Fox Foundation’s mission is to support the Fox Performing Arts Center and enrich the community by inspiring participation in the life of the Fox through community-focused performances, community outreach, and fundraising.

For more information about the Students at Broadway program or the Fox Riverside Theater Foundation visit their website.