Is an underground pool a legitimate option at Oak Park and River Forest High School? The District 200 Board of Education is expected to discuss that very subject – and could vote on including an underground option for public consideration – at a special board meeting on June 30. 

On June 23, the District 200 school board voted to table a vote on whether to include an updated underground option for community engagement meetings to be held next month. 

Board President Jeff Weissglass said the board will discuss how the underground plan fits within the district’s Long Term Facilities Plan at the Thursday meeeting. 

The school district’s architectural firm, Legat Architects, delivered the new underground option after the board authorized the firm to evaluate and update a plan introduced by board member Steve Gevinson in April.

Gevinson’s plan, designed by Oak Park architects Frank Heitzman and Garret Eakin, had been given the designation Option 5B. 

Earlier this month, Legat conducted a peer review of 5B, comprising an underground swimming pool facility  built on the west side of campus, and keeping the existing parking garage intact.

“Our review of the Option 5B conceptual design is based on our firm’s experience coupled with years of input from the OPRFHS community about the function of their physical education, athletic, and community programs plus months developing conceptual designs, program verification, and the schematic designs of the aquatic center approved by the Core Design Team and the Board of Education,” the firm noted in a June 10 summary of its review findings.”

In its review, Legat listed more than two dozen modifications or additions to 5B, which the firm’s architects said doesn’t include a smoke evacuation system, omits  space required for a surge tank system and has inadequate family locker rooms.

Among other changes, the new Option 5C increases the amount of natural light that comes into the building and increases deck space and mezzanine-level space in order to accommodate more activities.

Legat’s also update significantly increased the cost of the facility — changes that Gevinson and Heitzman, in their responses to Legat’s presentation on June 23, said were unnecessary and extreme. 

“Our proposal, 5B, was for a 47,500-square-foot pool facility estimated to cost $33,679,000 by [professional] cost estimators,” Heitzman said. “Legat’s 5C schematic design proposal is for a 54,596-square-foot building, or an additional 7,096 square feet, which, if the cost per square foot is extrapolated to this area, may cost an additional $5 million.” 

Heitzman proposed that the new plan’s square footage be reduced and said that he and Eakin “believe that this new building option can and should be more efficient and less costly.” 

Some board members, however, were still somewhat leery at the prospect of building an underground pool — which, according to Legat architects, could be the nation’s first on a high school campus. 

Board members were also concerned about the different positions staked out by two groups of architects, particularly in light of what some consider to be the lack of a clear understanding about the high school’s long-term capital needs. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

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