George Block: Spring 2016 Shared Use Ambassador

george blockOrganization: San Antonio Sports and Voices for Children San Antonio
Title: President of the World Swimming Coaches Association
Location: San Antonio, TX

As president of the World Swimming Coaches Association, George works to open up pools and aquatic centers to the general public. George's experience with shared use started with the Northside (ISD) Aquatics Center, which opened in 1978 and was specifically planned and designed to be a community aquatics center. Since 1978, the Aquatics Center has held elementary PE swimming classes, high school and club swimming and diving teams, extensive community fitness and learn-to-swim programming.  Typically, multiple programs will operate in the center simultaneously.

In the mid-90s, George was part of a movement in San Antonio to turn elementary schools into community centers during non-school hours.  The push was unsuccessful, but the sub-goal of having a park within walking distance of 90 percent of the homes in San Antonio was adopted by San Antonio Sports in its 20-year Facility Plan. There was no money and no land available to build new parks, but there was already an elementary school within walking distance of 90 percent of the homes in San Antonio.  Harris County was starting a program at that time called SPARK (School PARK), where CDBG funds were used to upgrade neighborhood school playgrounds. SA Sports licensed SPARK locally and promoted it to city councils, but councilers were hesitant to sign on. Then, Councilman Reed Williams called back and said, “I was wrong.  I get it now.” In 2010, Councilman Williams dedicated some surplus bond funding to “prime the pump” with the first 3 SPARK projects.