By Richard Dunn     5/19/2016

With an electric haircut trimmer in one hand and pool net cleaner in another, the beloved late Father Kevin Fitzpatrick, OSM, is probably smiling in heaven as he looks upon Servite High School’s first major construction development on campus in 20 years – a new aquatics center named in his honor.

“Father Fitz coached water polo and swimming at Servite for many years, provided haircuts on the pool deck, cleaned the pool every day and made the pool available to the local public,” Servite President Pete Bowen said at a groundbreaking ceremony April 28 for the new aquatics center.

The student body and a host of dignitaries, stakeholders and donors listened as Bowen added, “Father Fitz was a model friar, providing counseling and spiritual direction, and it is important to take time to say thank you. This (aquatics center) is going to be very big on our campus.”

The $5.3-million project, part of a $12 million capital campaign, will be the first new major facility on the Anaheim campus since the completion of the science and library buildings two decades ago.

“It’s very exciting,” Servite water polo and swimming coach Andy Coffman said. “We haven’t got the final date (for an official opening), but it should be finished some time after our fall (2016) water polo season.”

The state-of-the-art, 51-meter, deep gutter pool will feature an energy-efficient design for solar heating, extra-wide swim lanes for faster times, multiple floating and fixed cage water polo courses, pace clocks, shot clocks, a timing system and men’s and women’s locker rooms. It will also boast of “track-start” style racing platforms, along with warm-up and cool-down swim lanes.

The new Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick Aquatics Center will allow multiple teams to practice, and position Servite to host CIF Southern Section, regional and national swimming and water polo tournaments. It will also permit Servite to nearly double its student participation capacity.

“One of the biggest things that this aquatics center does is really help Servite show that we are active and involved in the community, and that we are moving forward with the facilities (our students) need in order to succeed,” Bowen said. “The aquatics center obviously will directly impact the swimming and water polo teams, but really the aquatics center is to be used by all of our teams, for neighborhood events and local clubs, and the pool deck will be available for use for community events.”

Coffman added that the Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick Aquatics Center will rival the high-end facility at Santa Margarita High, considered by some to be the premiere aquatics center in the Trinity League.

“It’s pretty cool that we get to boast of that,” Coffman said. “The new facility, with the training we will be able to do, we hope will attract young Servite athletes and help grow the (water polo) program. Right now, we’re at about 40 to 45 kids in the whole water polo program. That’s a cap (on the total participation numbers), because right now we have limitations. Most programs have about 60 kids with novice, frosh-soph, junior varsity and varsity teams. We would like to get our numbers up to that.”

Coffman said “you never like to cut anyone,” and if a student shows up at the pool deck a coach wants to serve, train and teach that person to help them grow in the sport and as an individual. There also might be a diamond in the rough, which the program would hate to lose because of space limitations.

“You want to give a kid the kind of environment that would (positively) affect him to be the best player he can possibly be,” Coffman said.

The Fr. Kevin Fitzpatrick Aquatics Center will be built on the west side of the campus. Three homes along Keystone Avenue and two school buildings have been razed to expand the footprint of the campus and make way for the new pool complex. Bowen said it is one of the largest projects in Servite history. The new aquatics center also helps make room on the Servite campus for future classrooms, a chapel and athletic facilities.

Fitzpatrick served at the all-male high school from 1970 to 1992, in which he taught Algebra I and Religion. In addition to cleaning the current pool every day, he made it available for the neighborhood kids during the summer.

Along with helping as a water polo and swimming coach, Fitzpatrick provided a shuttle service, giving students rides to offsite practice locations before the current pool was built. He gave students free haircuts almost daily on the pool deck and had a special gift of relating to students from a wide range of backgrounds; he was known for living the Servite Charisms of Fraternity, Service and Humility.