On Tues., Aug. 19, at 8:00 p.m., the District 200 Board of Education will be holding a special meeting to discuss three potential sites for building a new pool. The community is welcome and invited to attend the meeting. The Board anticipates voting on a final site selection at its regular meeting on Thurs., Aug. 28.
Pool Project FAQs
Why does OPRF need a new pool?
Swimming instruction has been an important part of the high school’s curriculum since its two pools were built in 1926. Swimming is an essential, lifelong skill, and all students are required to take swimming as part of physical education (PE). The normal lifespan of an indoor competition pool is 40 to 50 years. At nearly 90 years old, both pools have significant safety, maintenance, and functionality issues. For instance, the District removed aged diving boards from one pool then was not permitted to replace them because the diving well is not compliant with current safety code. As a result, the school’s diving program is now based off campus. Other significant issues include deteriorating structural support, leaking, high maintenance costs, narrow pool decks, poor spectator sight lines, headroom-clearance shortfalls, and substandard competitive pool widths. Significant capital costs are anticipated in the near future if the existing pools are going to stay open. Simply put, our pools have exhausted their useful life.
How were possible pool sites selected?
In February 2012, the high school hired Stantec Consulting Services to evaluate pool replacement options and costs. Over the following year, a pool committee, which included Board members, administrators, Athletics staff, and community members, worked with Stantec to identify and analyze potential sites. Seven possible locations were identified in the Stantec report, issued in March 2013. Over the next year, further, more detailed analyses were conducted. The list of sites identified in the report was winnowed to two, and a new site was proposed by consultant Legat Architects. The result was the final list of three possible sites the Board now is considering.
What are the three sites?
1. The baseball field just north of the stadium.
2. The area occupied by the existing parking garage.
3. The athletic field on Lake Street.
But if you build on those sites, won’t that affect other programs or parking?
Yes. That is a significant consideration. Given that the high school has no available, contiguous land, there is no perfect, impact-free location for a pool. The work toward choosing a final site has focused on three goals:
1. Identify the best possible solution for the OPRF aquatics programs.
2. Minimize the impact on other curricular, extra-curricular, and community programs.
3. Exercise our fiscal responsibility to the community.
Why not just put two new pools in the same place the old ones are?
Requirements of our pools now are very different from 90 years ago. The physical layout of the current pools is substandard for a modern competition pool, particularly in the amount of pool deck area and the spectator seating sight lines. The pool committee believes that a single, Olympic-size pool (nine lanes x 50 meters long) will best meet the needs of the OPRF physical education and aquatics programs while also serving community programs. In comparison, the two current pools are, respectively, five and six lanes x 25 yards long.
What will a new pool cost?
Depending on the site and whether or not the pool building is connected to the main building via a connecting bridge, the cost of the pool ranges from $34,282,469 to $37,826,292.
By law, does the community need to vote on whether to build a new pool?
Illinois School Code requires a referendum for construction of free-standing buildings and facilities, such as a pool built on the Lake Street Field. Accordingly, a referendum would be required for a freestanding building with no connection to the existing building. However, the Board has the option of holding a referendum even if one is not required.
How will the pool be financed?
Out of funds on hand, a bond referendum, or some combination of these sources.
But the District has a fund balance of $127 million. Why would you even consider asking the community for more money to build a pool?
Recommendations of the Board’s Finance Advisory Committee would return some District funds to taxpayers over the next eight to 10 years, reducing the fund balance to a more reasonable amount. A new pool is at least a 50-year investment. Paying for the entire amount out of current funds would require current taxpayers foot the entire bill for a resource that will be used until roughly the end of the century. In comparison, financing the project with bonds spreads some of the cost over the next several generations who will benefit from the pool.
Will the community be able to use the pool?
The high school is a community asset. Accordingly, the District currently allows its pools to be used not only by the OPRF swimming, water polo, and synchronized-swimming teams and summer swim lessons but also by the YMCA’s TOPS swim team, and the West Suburban Special Recreation Association (WSSRA). An expanded aquatics facility will expand opportunities for community use of the pool.
The Park District just renovated Ridgeland Common—why didn’t the District partner with the Park District to build an indoor pool the whole community can use?
The District and the Park District have communicated frequently concerning their respective pool projects. However, an off-campus pool could not serve the high school’s physical education needs, only its competitive needs. While the parties are continuing to evaluate opportunities for collaboration with all of their facilities, including their pools, the Ridgeland Common renovation cannot handle the aquatics needs of the high school.
What’s the timeline for building a pool?
Planning the construction and making provisions for the programs that will be affected by the project will take about a year. Building the pool is expected to take two years. The goal is for the pool to be in use for the 2017-2018 school year.