By Terry Dean
Oak Park and River Forest High School will decide by early next spring where it will construct its new pool.
Supt. Steven Isoye said that decision will come either in February or March of next year. The school will also conduct a feasibility study into the current options for the pools, including building a facility in part of the current parking garage or just north of the baseball field where the tennis courts are currently located. The other option is building just north of the football field, resulting in the baseball field shifting north and taking up the tennis court space. The courts would be relocated to the new facility's upper level, according to the latter of the two options.
After a decision is made next spring, it will still be a couple of years, likely, before any facility is built, Isoye said.
That timeframe is needed, he added, regardless of which direction the high school goes, but especially for the parking garage option.
The garage situation is a unique one because the school does not own that building. The village of Oak Park owns the garage but the high school owns the land it resides on. Isoye noted there are a lot of things to consider with the garage, including possible zoning and permit changes needed for that space.
"We need to do our due diligence," Isoye said. "That's why I've been hesitant to give a firm date [for a decision] because there are so many things to consider."
The village, could, for instance, OK a structure but require it be built within a certain distance from the curb on Lake Street, Isoye noted. The high school faced a similar situation when it tried to install lights at its stadium six years ago. The application was sent back when the light standards in its designs weren't placed in the proper spot according to the village's zoning code for new structures.
The other issue with a new pool facility is whether the school can build one without going for a bond referendum, similar to what District 97 did before building its two middle schools in the late '90s, early 2000s. The high school planned to use some of its fund balance to build the facility. Isoye said the school's attorney is looking into the referendum question.
No pool facility at Dominick's
Isoye added that OPRF is not exploring the Dominick's space at Lake and Harvey for the pool site. Dominick's announced last month that it is leaving Oak Park and River Forest next year. The Oak Park location came up at a recent D200 Finance Advisory Committee meeting, wondering whether that was a possible option for a pool site. Isoye said Dominick's is not among the options the school is considering, nor will it be part of the feasibility study.