Concordia University in River Forest closing its indoor pool

University says use has waned among students and faculty

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By Megan Dooley

Staff Reporter

In less than one month, Concordia University in River Forest will be closing its swimming pool, due in part to lack of use by students and faculty members.

But what about everyone else? According to several local residents, the pool is a well-used and affordable option for fitness classes, never mind its impact on social lives.

"It's just staggering to us, to think that we're not going to have it anymore," said Cathy Sweitzer, a self-proclaimed relative newbie to the pool after two-and-a-half years of attendance in the water aerobics class. Many of her fellow classmates have been students for going on a decade or more.

Oak Parker Lynda Prischman has been taking exercise classes at Concordia pool three times per week since 2000. "Part of the issue abruptly this is closing," she said, adding that many of her friends and fellow pool-goers were equally mystified by the sudden announcement last week.

According to Sarah Hickman, a communications specialist for Concordia University, the last day the pool will be open is Aug. 7. The pool staffers, including Aquatics Director Adrienne Gedvilas, have all been notified that they will be losing their jobs.

Hickman said that back when the pool opened in 1964, it was an integral part of the university's curriculum. Now, only about three percent of the students, faculty and staff take advantage of their pool privileges.

But times have changed, needs have evolved, and the use isn't considered great enough to keep the pool open. Hickman said that the decision was not a financial one.

But the pool, located on the River Forest campus in the Geiseman Gymnasium, is also open to the public for a small fee. According to patrons, the pool provides the most economical water fitness classes in town.

"It is an indoor pool that does not require you to have a health club membership," Prischman said.

Sweitzer said the $4 per hour price tag can't be beat. "It's extremely reasonable compared to a membership at a club," she said.

Not to mention enjoyable and healthful. Sweitzer teaches courses at Dominican University in River Forest, and said she often rearranges her course schedule around her water aerobics class, because she enjoys it so much. "I wake up on the mornings that I have class and I can't wait," she said. "I just couldn't feel mentally or physically better."

Elizabeth Rexford, an Oak Park woman who takes the same water aerobics class as Sweitzer, said she's most disappointed that Gedvilas will be losing her job. "Adrienne Gedvilas is one of the best teachers I've ever seen in my life," she said.

Rexford said the pool has also provided a breeding ground for new friendships. She and her classmates now make a habit of grabbing lunch together after every class. Some of the swimmers even threw a wedding shower for Gedvilas in April, and later attended her wedding.

"It just was a lot of fun," Rexford said of the overall experience of the class.

Rexford, Sweitzer, and Prischman all said they're hoping Concordia will reconsider their decision before closing the pool. "It's just staggering to us to think that we're not going got have it anymore," Sweitzer said.

Reader Comments

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dexter poole from river forest  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 1:14 PM

With the tax free status of Concordia, can't they keep it open as a payback to the community?


Posted: July 20th, 2011 11:14 AM

I was wondering the same thing, OPR. The Park District used to have an indoor pool at the Oak Park Hospital I think? Not that many people knew about it. i would definitely use the concordia pool if it was affiliated with the PD, though I doubt it is included in the PD's strategic plan, and it's not like the district is rolling in dough. Personally, as someone who doesn't have the $ to get a membership at FCC, I would love a lap pool through the PD.

OP Resident  

Posted: July 20th, 2011 11:09 AM

The Park District of Oak Park no longer has an indoor swimming pool, as they had with the Oak Park Center. A LOT of patrons from the outdoor pools, especially lap swimmers, utilize Concordia in the winter. Why couldn't the Park District of Oak Park and, also the River Forest Park District, work together to keep the pool open and operate it?

Mariannell Bassett-Dilley from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 5:32 PM

This is a horrible loss to the community. My children are in the midst of their lessons there, so we are at loss as well. The Open Swim was the best therapy for my sensory kid in those long winter months...

DiaK from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 4:19 PM

LOVE having the option to swim at Concordia when the OP pools close (too early!) for the season. Especially in winter! Swimming is so good for your health. This is a terrible move to make while everybody's trying to figure out ways to reduce medical expenses. How about promoting, encouraging and supporting activities that pay off with better health for everybody? It's cheaper. And it's more fun!

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 4:19 PM

As a member of the RF Citizens Advisory Committee on Village Finances I received the disingenuous and misleading "study" from Concordia and Dominican of how they benefit the village. Closing the pool (a well-kept secret while open) like this only reinforces my skepticism of Concordia's commitment to the residents of the village in which it is located. If their well-paid top executives would take a small pay cut, Concordia could afford to keep the pool open.

Regina from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 3:52 PM

This is such a huge loss. There are so many loss opportunities here -- the YMCA working out a cooperation deal with Concordia, Concordia and River Forest coming together to perhaps provide a benefit to village residents, better advertistement of the pool to community members and students. Where I went to college, students, staff and professors routinely swam, this would seem to be a loss to potential and future students in addition to community members.

Swimmer Mom from River Forest  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 3:25 PM

This is such a loss to our community. Now there is nowhere (not even a private club) where a competitive swimmer can swim 25 yards indoors in the winter. Another example of the poor services that we receive in RF in exchange for exorbitant property taxes. Why live here?

Mardie Anderson from River Forest  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 2:47 PM

This is such terrible news! Working out a deal with Midtown is a great idea - the swimming lessons are great and their are no other great pools around. Please reconsider!!

OP Mom  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 1:07 PM

Contact Dr. Dennis Witte at and Evelyn Burdick at or call 708-209-3259 to voice your concerns.

Jane P. from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 1:02 PM

This is a huge loss for Oak Park and River Forest. My brother and I learned to swim at Concordia when we were kids. My son has been taking lessons there and they are wonderful. I hope they change their minds!

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 12:59 PM

Patricia, check out the learn to swim program offered during the summer at OP-RF HS. Excellent instruction and not too expensive. Classes fill up quickly!

jan from oak park   

Posted: July 19th, 2011 12:53 PM

Terrible news. Much nicer than the Y's pool

Patricia O'Shea  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 12:26 PM

This is a bummer. I can't seem to get my kids into swim lessons anywhere close. Now there are even fewer options. I'm already going to have to go to Oakbrook. I wonder how many other working parents will have to do the same.

M on Ridgeland from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 12:18 PM

They had the best swimming lessons! I have many found memories of taking lessons their myself and my children. Also having b-day parties! This is terrible and a great lose to the community. Wish they would reconsider the usage of this pool!

Elizabeth from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 10:07 AM

I'm very disappointed and saddened by this news. The pool could be much better promoted and advertised to the community for lessons, classes, and lap swim. Also, Midtown Fitness doesn't have a pool; couldn't a deal be worked out where Midtown members could use this pool??

Alma K from Oak Park  

Posted: July 19th, 2011 9:50 AM

I'm so disappointed by this news. The year round youth swim lessons offered at Concordia are top-notch.

really??? from Oak Park  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 11:11 PM

You mean to tell me that the Y can't use this pool, but is developing a relationship with a Maywood outdoor pool for summer use only. This pool is closer and indoors!!! And it's a much nicer pool that the Y's current pool. I know that if there was some type of arrangement, this pool would get great use! What a shame!

RF Resident  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 10:15 PM

April 2010 report by RF Citizen Advisory Cmte on Village Finances, " In order to bridge the structural budget deficit ... Village should establish Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) for the two tax-exempt institutions universities. $400K is the estimated costs of annual services. " 6/21/2010, CU Prez Johnson presented to RF Village Board; "The Economic Impact of CU on the Village of RF is more than $76,000 through public access to the CU swimming pool" So when will CU write that $76K check?

Dana Ginsberg  

Posted: July 18th, 2011 6:11 PM

My best friend from grade school used to have her birthday parties there. It was the first pool where I ever jumped off a "high" diving board.

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