Sports Venues: Beverly Hills "Swim Gym"

By John Gillis on May 17, 2016 blog Print

In a community perhaps better known for a television show featuring a transplanted hillbilly family and another one with an upscale high school sporting a now-famous zip code, Beverly Hills, California, is home to one of the nation’s most unique high school athletic facilities.

That venue is known as the “Swim Gym,” and it’s located in Beverly Hills High School (BHHS). It accommodates sports that at first blush don’t seem to quite go together – basketball/volleyball and swimming/water polo. In addition, it can also handle wrestling. Without question, it gives completely new meaning to the term “multi-sport facility.”

When a person first walks into the Swim Gym, he or she will witness an innocuous-appearing wood floor accommodating basketball and volleyball courts. However, with the simple turn of a key and the push of a button, the floor parts from the center to reveal a 25-yard-long swimming pool located beneath it.

Making that action possible are two large motors on each side of the gym. The floor rolls on guide tracks and everything is controlled at a control panel located near midcourt.

Given its close proximity to Hollywood, it shouldn’t be surprising that it’s been featured several times in movies and on television. Perhaps its most famous entertainment medium inclusion was in Frank Capra’s classic 1946 movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” as the location of the dance.

In it, there’s a scene in which Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are dancing the Charleston at the high school prom on the basketball court. Then all of a sudden, the floor comes apart to reveal the swimming pool beneath it and they fall into the water.