Students at La Joya Independent School District are lucky: They have their own waterpark.
La Joya ISD, serving 29,000 students in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, recently cut the ribbon on its state-of-the-art Sports and Learning Complex, which includes a waterpark and a natatorium.
Officials say it’s the only school district in the Lone Star State to own a waterpark. Features include two body slides, tube slide, lazy river, splash play area, 20 umbrellas and a covered picnic pavilion. It can accommodate up to 1,200 guests.
The amenity, designed by Gignac Architects, is a part of a student-activity center with a planetarium and tennis courts.
Funding got underway in 2014 when the district earmarked $16 million for the complex, according to the Progress Times. The final tally was a reported $20 million.
A waterpark and natatorium are needed because there is nothing like it in this rural region, officials say. The district’s swim teams had to commute to neighboring communities to find suitable pools to practice in.
“People would have to travel quite a distance to a public swimming pool for water safety lessons,” said Victor Garza, director of the Sports and Learning Complex.
The school-owned waterpark mirrors a trend playing out across college campuses where lazy rivers and waterslides are becoming more common. Critics have charged that these elaborate amenities only serve to jack up tuition costs. One published opinion lobs a similar complaint against La Joya ISD’s decision to build a waterpark.
“Texans deserve more education for their money. La Joya’s water park serves as a reminder that Texans can support their public schools without endorsing every spending decision — and tax hike — made by school officials,” Stephanie Matthews, vice president of public affairs at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, wrote the Houston Chronicle.
La Joya ISD, however, maintains that the public was largely supportive of the project.
“We’ve met with approximately 1,200 [people] and I can tell you there was a very positive acceptance by our neighbors here,” Garza said.
The waterpark isn’t exclusive to students. During the summer, it will be open to the public.