By Ben Meyerson
Summers are getting busier for kids. An increasing number of summer camps, youth sports and classes compete for their time.
Left by the wayside, increasingly, are the Park District of Oak Park's two pools, Ridgeland Common and Rehm. The sale of full season pool passes has been dropping since at least 2003.
Passes are the most consistent way for pools to build revenue, simply because they're a locked-in cash source that's generally known early in the year. Daily pool entrance cash, however, can fluctuate from day to day based on holidays, the temperature, and the weather.
While the pools have been profitable for the park district, they haven't been consistent, with profits ranging widely between $14,000 and $60,000 since 2007.
So declining pass sales have a bigger impact.
One reason pass sales may be flagging could be the ever-increasing number of summer camps and other activities vying for kids' time, according to Bill Hamilton, who oversees the park district's pools as superintendent of revenue facilities. Another factor could be increasing skin cancer fears.
Those are mainly outside the park district's control. But one thing the park district can control is the pools' amenities: diving boards, waterslides and the like.
At a meeting of the park district's board last Thursday, board president Mark Gartland asked Hamilton what they could do to revive the public's interest in the pools.
"The diving well at Rehm is a great candidate," Hamilton said. "There are simple things, like adding a deck slide, that could be done for $7,000 or $8,000."
The park district currently has $250,000 budgeted each year from 2012 through 2015 for improvements to Rehm.
What to do with Ridgeland is the subject of much debate, and a key question in the park district's soon-to-be-released community survey. Eliminating its pool completely is one possible option on the table.