Making a splash in the Rio Grande Valley, the La Joya Independent School District has just opened a new venue in order to encourage their students and promote education and athletics.
This Wednesday La Joya ISD held a special ribbon cutting ceremony for their new Sports & Learning Complex, a $20 million project four years in the making. The 215 acre complex houses an indoor natatorium, a multi-depth waterpark, tennis courts, a golf course, planetarium, and a learning center.
Located at 1801 N. Western Rd. in Mission, TX, the district is positive that this complex will be significant for students and the community alike. Alda T. Benavides, La Joya ISD Superintendent, said that it was another great day in the history of La Joya ISD.
“It’s about providing opportunities for kids, and this says it all,” Benavides stated. “There’s definitely a lot of gain for the children that we serve. We’re very proud to be here today.”
Benavides spoke about the hardships faced during the four year construction period, and the criticism the district faced because of it.
“When it comes to enriching the lives of children, there is no price,” Benavides said. “Already we have started to enrich the lives of children. So La Joya ISD is proud to have a school board that is willing to take risks, that is willing to be criticized, that is willing to make a difference in the lives of kids, and is willing to have the courage and persistence, because it took a lot of persistence to get this project done.”
Victor Garza, the LJISD Sports & Learning Complex Director, spoke at the event, and praised the students, faculty and community that were present.
“It’s going to improve our educational processes and improve the opportunities for our students,” Garza said.
According to LJISD, the natatorium is an environment that will ensure the success of their swimming and diving teams, and will also offer aquatic programs focused on safety, fitness, and technique. The facility has the potential to be beneficial for therapy for injuries, helpful for individuals with special needs, and allow elementary children a chance to learn how to swim.
“Our sports complex will provide physical fitness opportunities to promote lifelong sports with our natatorium, water park, tennis courts, and definitely with our golf course,” Garza said. “We want to promote and invest in our lifelong sports.”
The waterpark will be open to the public at the beginning of summer 2018, and will also be available for private bookings and reservations. The season will begin Memorial Day weekend and end the weekend before Labor Day. The hours of operation will be from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Wednesdays.
The Howling Trails Golf Course is also a public facility that student athletes will use for practice as well as tournaments.
The planetarium will allow students to experience full-dome educational lessons that tie in with classroom curriculum. It is equipped with desktop computers, interactive monitors, and an 86-inch screen that will provide live-streaming via webcams. LJISD is working toward using it to communicate with the NASA International Space Station, giving students a rare opportunity.
“For the planetarium, our goal and our vision is very simple: our mission is to excite,” Garza said. “Our mission is to amaze. Our mission is to inspire audiences of all ages about the wonders of sciences and space. We will also compliment our educational processes with innovative learning styles and educational learning programs in our learning center.”
Nelia Garcia, the Sports & Learning Complex Specialist, gave a tour of the facilities after the ribbon was cut.
“Just seeing the reaction from people, this is why we do it,” Garcia said. “We started getting the field trips, and the little kids were floored. This is for them.”
This is the first complex of its kind from any school district in the region and in the state of Texas. LJISD has already allowed students to use the facilities, which is already showing to have a positive impact. Former Juarez-Lincoln swimmer, Alondra Isabel Alanis, is now a lifeguard at the Sports & Learning Complex. The mechanical engineering student at UTRGV is excited about what the facility will do for LJISD students.
“Having this Sports & Learning Complex, it’s amazing what the district brings to us,” Alanis said. “I’m speechless at this amazing facility. I’m very excited. It gives more opportunities for the swimmers, for the divers, it opens their horizons and gives them more opportunities to do what they need to do. It’s amazing. I can’t express how grateful I am, it’s an amazing thing the district has done.”