The model or benchmark for the OPRF High School swimming pool is the Patriot Natatorium at Adlai E. Stevenson* High School in Lincolnshire. It’s the only high school 50-meter, 8-lane pool with a deep-well diving area in Illinois.

In my vast reading of comic books, I never saw the word “natatorium.” When I first read the word, I thought it meant some immense public building used as a live birthing center with a large space for an audience, something insurance companies conjured up to cut down on medical costs.

Stupid me, a natatorium is not a birthing center it’s a ponderous word for an indoor swimming pool.

Both OPRF and Adlai E. Stevenson High School (AESH) have over 3,000 students and are very similar schools except AESH has $93 million in local revenue, 0% low income, 95% graduation rate, 85% ready for college and OPRFHS has $70 million in local revenue, 22% low income, 94% graduation rate, and 68% ready for college. Well, they are not exactly similar, but I say what’s a 22% low-income difference between districts with natatoriums?

Once the OPRF natatorium is built and becomes the second 8-lane, 50-meter, high school natatorium in Illinois, the district will be swimming past the big fish school districts in the state, the wealthy one-percenter districts like Winnetka, Hinsdale, Highland Park, and Barrington. This might lead some critics of the OPRF natatorium to say OPRF High School has a one-percent mindset with a 22 percent low-income student body. However, supporters of the natatorium will strongly refute that and respond with, “Well, you have good point there. So what?”

No design or drawings of the OPRF natatorium yet exist. It seems the school board is financing the natatorium based on its dimensions (50 meters by 25 yards) with details like how many spectators it will hold, the type of mechanicals, the location of the ceiling, the floor, and the hot tub for the diving well (divers use them for muscle recovery) to be determined. 

I don’t think I would like to buy a new house that way. Suppose you figured the dimensions and the cost of the new house, procured the financing, then forgot to include something. For example, the roof.

The natatorium is still a work in progress. Many important questions still need to be answered, especially about public access: Will dogs be able to swim in the pool and fetch floating kongs or tennis balls thrown by their owners? Can one rent the hot tub in the diving well for bachelor parties? Can local residents use their jet skis in the natatorium and buzz the length of the 50 meter pool? 

Oak Park and River Forest have a severe shortage of places to use a jet ski in winter, and I think faculty members who want to use their jet skis in the pool should get discounts on any jet ski fees to compensate for the loss of the parking garage. 

* Adlai E. Stevenson was a great supporter of swimming, and every morning during his political career he swam the length of his bathtub.

Byron Lanning, a referendum petition signer, is a resident of Oak Park.

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