At Oak Park pools, pass sales dwindling

Lack of new, exciting updates and upgrades might hurt interest

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By Ben Meyerson

Chicago Journal Editor

Summers are getting busier for kids. An increasing number of summer camps, youth sports and classes compete for their time.

Left by the wayside, increasingly, are the Park District of Oak Park's two pools, Ridgeland Common and Rehm. The sale of full season pool passes has been dropping since at least 2003.

Passes are the most consistent way for pools to build revenue, simply because they're a locked-in cash source that's generally known early in the year. Daily pool entrance cash, however, can fluctuate from day to day based on holidays, the temperature, and the weather.

While the pools have been profitable for the park district, they haven't been consistent, with profits ranging widely between $14,000 and $60,000 since 2007.

So declining pass sales have a bigger impact.

One reason pass sales may be flagging could be the ever-increasing number of summer camps and other activities vying for kids' time, according to Bill Hamilton, who oversees the park district's pools as superintendent of revenue facilities. Another factor could be increasing skin cancer fears.

Those are mainly outside the park district's control. But one thing the park district can control is the pools' amenities: diving boards, waterslides and the like.

At a meeting of the park district's board last Thursday, board president Mark Gartland asked Hamilton what they could do to revive the public's interest in the pools.

"The diving well at Rehm is a great candidate," Hamilton said. "There are simple things, like adding a deck slide, that could be done for $7,000 or $8,000."

The park district currently has $250,000 budgeted each year from 2012 through 2015 for improvements to Rehm.

What to do with Ridgeland is the subject of much debate, and a key question in the park district's soon-to-be-released community survey. Eliminating its pool completely is one possible option on the table.

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Reader Comments

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Comment Policy

Anti-Oak Park Pool from Oak Park  

Posted: October 18th, 2010 4:15 PM

We stopped going to the Oak Park pools about 3 years ago because anytime we went the pools were packed with campers who were really unattended their counselors - I had younger campers grabbing on to me because they were not strong swimmers, my kids weren't allowed any type of swim toys due to obvious capacity safety issues, all seating was taken by campers, limited free parking - really not a family friendly, community pool.

Barsickle from River Forest  

Posted: October 17th, 2010 4:58 PM

The Oak Park pools make a profit? That is, they have earned $14,000-$60,000 annually in recent years in excess of their costs, including any capital costs and debt service, or is "profit" defined differently in OP?

Sheila M from Oak park  

Posted: October 14th, 2010 9:08 PM

My money goes to a FP pool pass. With 2 lap lanes for 18 and over every day ( not just 530 am weekdays) a guard system that switches every 15 minutes, a concession stand that serves decent food at reasonable prices, and a system where feces mishaps are kept to a minimum it is an enjoyable place to be. Too much complacency on the OP Park Board as well as the managing staff at the Park Sistrict leaves one to really wonder just what is going on. Now the ice rink? Poor facility managent for too long

Hank Marquardt from OP  

Posted: October 14th, 2010 8:40 PM

I don't believe costs have been stable over the last 10 years (my useful pass life with kids) ... My guess is that at best, we broke even on 3 passes this year and lost miserably on my wife's (she went 1x). And this was a *hot* summer. Last year I'm sure we lost money big time on the family lot of passes.Yes, some slides would help a lot ... though probably also raise insurance/costs ... I wouldn't pay *more* for those, but I might actually buy again.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: October 14th, 2010 4:32 PM

My family's reason for not buying a pool pass is probably in sync with the park district's theories. For a pool pass to break even you have to make 9 trips before it was essentially free. The last several years no one in my family has made that many trips. This past summer my wife and I did not get there at all, and my kids, though they had passes did not use them more then 4 or 5 times each. I don't think kids are living all day every day at the pool as they did when I was a kid.

Steve from Oak Park  

Posted: October 14th, 2010 12:05 PM

We've been buying the passes for at least the last 3 years and are fairly happy with them and the facilities. Perhaps growing up with a small-town western Illinois community pool in the 50s affects my perspective.I would like to see better use of the existing facilities. It bothers me that we go to Rehm and see the beautiful 3 level diving deck but no one is allowed to dive from it. They now only permit jumping from the lowest level, no diving at all. We're told there are insurance issues.

John from Oak Park  

Posted: October 13th, 2010 9:05 PM

1) We passed a referendum2) We have a TIF that skims $11,000,000 some of that is for the parks.3) Its not the economy, its poor management of public resources. Just like with the school crossing guards, the village diverts all that money and then turns around and says we can't supply crossing guards. Much of the money is there its just how we choose to spend it. Former user is right no one wants to go to a filthy facility where the employee's are surly. FP pass costs the same to boot!

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: October 13th, 2010 5:54 PM

Thanks, Peter. Yes, I meant Forest Park.

Peter Traczyk  

Posted: October 13th, 2010 5:24 PM

I think John Murtagh is referring to the Forest Park pool complex; I don't know of a pool in River Forest other than the private Tennis Club. I will admit to driving my family all the way out to Lombard Park District's top notch Paradise Bay Water Park, even though we can literally walk to Ridgeland Commons. While Oak Park can't afford it now, Lombard was able to build both a maintenance garage and the new water park with a $6 Million referendum in 2008 (and presumably a lot more debt).

Former pool user  

Posted: October 13th, 2010 4:40 PM

No the price has not remained the same. I think it has steadily increased throughout the years. Unfortunately, Mr. Hamilton does not want to believe that people are tired of paying for substandard, filthy facilities. Rather chosing to blaming decreased revenue on busy families and cancer?

Tony from Oak Park  

Posted: October 13th, 2010 12:23 PM

It is odd that the price of the pool pass was not mentioned in the article. Has it been stable since 2003?

john murtagh from Oak Park  

Posted: October 12th, 2010 11:27 PM

I feel like a traitor, but we have been taking our grandchildren to the River Forest Swimming Pool. River Forest's pool is undoubtedly another reason for the OP pool revenue decline.The features at the RF pool are superior to Oak Park pools. Particularly important for toddlers is a beach style area with water sprayers, a huge sand box area, sprinklers all over, a great slides and diving boards, and plenty of swimming space.

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