In the ongoing jigsaw puzzle of how to build a new pool for Oak Park and River Forest High School on a landlocked campus, a new option surfaced last week as District 200 is considering moving its softball program to a new facility at Triton College in River Grove.

In this scenario, the latest in a long-line of options considered over several years, an Olympic-sized pool would be built on the site of current softball diamonds. Other options remain on the table, but with time running out for the current school board, a vote on a pool site is anticipated on April 23. The newly elected school board will be seated in early May.

The Triton site is being brought up more than a month after the parking lot behind Oak Park’s village hall was announced as a possible site for a sport, in that case tennis, that might relocate off campus due to the pool’s construction. Those talks, however, fell through after cost estimates for the courts proved too high. 

District officials have estimated the cost of relocating the softball fields to Triton — which is about 4.5 miles away, or a 15-minute drive, from OPRF — at approximately $500,000, not including additional costs related to amenities. The cost would entail “$25,000 per annum paid up front in 2-3 years for a 20-year (lease) agreement,” according to an April 14 district memo. This would raise the total estimated cost of pool construction to $36,000,000.

The Triton proposal entails building a new synthetic turf softball field underneath lights, in addition to acquiring a grass field that already exists on the college’s campus. The new field would be built, and the existing field retrofitted, to meet West Suburban Conference varsity field rules and District 200 specifications. 

According to the district memo, the existing grass field at Triton already meets most varsity field rules and district requirements. For instance, it is equipped with two permanent covered dugouts, a pitching warm up area for the home team and visitors, a five-foot outfield fence, nearby restrooms and a scoreboard.

District 200 and Triton officials would need to discuss the possibility of adding two batting cages and spectator seating for 200 people. Currently, there is only seating for about 20 people around the grass field. The district noted that the fields could potentially be a boon to elementary school districts in both Oak Park and River Forest. 

“In addition, our feeder groups may also be able to make use of the two softball fields at Triton, but would need to work directly with Triton administration to determine needs and availability and to negotiate an agreement for the use of space,” the memo states. 

The Triton option is one of two options currently under consideration to accommodate the pool’s construction. The other option is to build the pool on the site where the school’s parking garage is presently located and leaving the baseball field in place.

That option entails three possible scenarios, all of which involve variations on parking accommodations. 

The least expensive scenario involves locating 150 to 300 off-site parking spaces at no extra cost to the $37,500,000 allocated to pool construction.

Another scenario involves constructing a parking facility on “the block of Scoville between Lake and the tracks (and using a portion of the Lake Street fields).” That option would add 266 more parking spaces on two levels of space and would cost an additional $10,300,000, bumping up the total estimated cost of pool construction to $47,800,000.

The most expensive scenario associated with building the pool on the garage site is to add 118 parking spaces inside of the building, in addition to 150 spaces on the street, at an additional cost of $11,800,000. This would bring the total estimated cost of pool construction up to $49,300,000. 

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