By Terry Dean
If Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 builds a pool facility, it'll either be on the baseball field, where the Lake Street parking garage is now or at another off-site location that's also used by the broader community.
Those three possibilities remain on the table following a three hour-plus meeting Monday by the district's Pool Site Evaluation Committee, which narrowed the choices down to those options.
The committee of more than a dozen eliminated six other options, including a massive renovation of the field house where the current pools are, costing upwards of $87 million to $141 million, according to rough estimates.
The remaining options cost between $48 million and $60 million, with the parking garage site at the higher end. That $60 million figure includes the purchase of the garage from the village of Oak Park estimated at $3.5 million, which accounts for the debt service on the 14-year-old structure, said committee Chair Jeff Weissglass.
The next step for the committee at their Dec. 8 meeting is to delve deeper into the designs of the remaining options and their impact on stakeholders who use those facilities currently. The baseball field option has three design possibilities, including building a facility on the tennis courts. Other options would put it next to the football stadium, which could displace either the football or softball program off-site. Each option is estimated at $52.2 million.
The least costly option is an off-site facility, costing $48.9 million, for competitive swimming and community use, plus renovating the current east pool for instructional physical education swimming classes. This option also entails bringing in another taxing body or community partner to share costs. The dollar figure does not include estimated costs for acquiring or improving an off-site property.
The committee went through all 11 design options and voted each up or down, though a handful of options never went to a vote after failing to receive a second to bring the motion forward.
Two options offered by members of the D200 school board, who also sit on the pool site committee, were rejected. Steve Gevinson's proposal to build a pool facility in the middle of the baseball field and then overlapping the baseball field and the football field was voted down. Ralph Lee's proposal of building a new pool in place of the current east pool also failed to garner support.
The garage site option had two designs, one with underground parking and one without; the one without parking never got to a vote. The garage option calls for underground parking for 100 vehicles with a pool built on top. Several committee members in support of that option asked that at least 100 more spaces be added.
The baseball field option also has trade-offs, namely booting baseball or softball games and practices off-site.
D200 Athletic Director John Stelzer, who sits on the committee, warned that moving either program off-site, possibly to one of the parks as suggested by some in the community, would cause a scheduling nightmare for games and practices.
"We have the baseball field here on campus and one at Lindberg [Park] that the high school uses. If we lose the baseball field here, we've lost the baseball field." Stelzer said. "There isn't another one that miraculously got built. We're moving us to Lindberg for varsity and we have no place to put the freshman games, and it's no different with softball."
Other committee members noted that sports like tennis would also need to find alternative space off-site.
Committee members on Dec. 8, plan to talk more about those details, and other parking options for the garage site, including freeing up more street parking around the high school or shuttling teachers to the garage at Oak Park Avenue and South Boulevard.
The off-site option opens up possibilities to partner with another entity, several committee members noted. Stelzer noted that that was strong possibility because several outside groups have expressed interest to use OPRF's pools more.
Funding a pool facility was also discussed Monday.
The committee heard from Liz Hennessy of the bonding and financial consulting firm William Blair. The district could explore paying for the pool facility through a combination of cash reserves and bonds.
The district also has a small window to get a referendum question on the ballot next April. The deadline to file the question would be in January. Or, the district could choose to place a referendum question on the November 2016 ballot or April 2017 ballot.
But committee member Peter Traczyk, who also sits on the Oak Park Elementary School District 97 board, reminded everyone that D97 plans to run a referendum in 2017.
Weissglass added that the high school is aware and very mindful of not wanting to bump up against another taxing body's referendum question.
Weissglass also noted that about $20 million for capital projects is already built into the district's budget projections over the next few years.
Answer Book 2019
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