Advocates for a community swimming pool in the Sonoma Valley have scored a breakthrough after years of false starts.
A deal underway for the Sonoma Valley Health and Recreation Association to buy a former resort in El Verano has brought the dream of a pool closer to reality than ever.
Still, the association, formerly known as Citizens United for a Sonoma Pool, needs $1.5 million to complete the purchase of Paul's Resort, which was destroyed by fire in 2013.
"It was always, 'Find the property and the money will come,'" said Mayor Tom Rouse, a member of the group. "We hope that is the case. We are in the middle of a very fast and furious fundraising effort to get the money to close the deal."
Paul Favaro, the association's board president, said the group has raised "a sizable amount, but we still have a long way to go."
The money must be in hand by the end of June to close escrow, Favaro said. If the agreement is concluded, it would mark the final chapter in the era of the family-owned Paul's Resort, in its heyday a popular dance hall, restaurant and holiday destination. It was last a Moose Lodge, which shut in 1981.
"I consider it my home, I grew up on that property," said Yvonne Marcucci-Thibault, who inherited it from her father, who bought the six acres during World War II. Over the years, she has resisted multiple offers to sell it, she said.
"I had no interest," she said.
The project as a whole could include two full-size pools, a gymnasium and multi-purpose rooms. It is projected to cost $10 to $12 million, a good part of which would be financed, Favaro said.
Sonoma Valley has been without a public swimming pool since 2005, when the Sonoma Valley High School pool, which offered area residents limited access, was filled in.