OPRF pool committee narrows pool sites to three

Parking garage, baseball field and off-site location remaining options

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

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. 

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Reader Comments

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dystOPia from OP  

Posted: December 8th, 2014 10:28 AM

To follow-up on Chris Goode's comment, the proposed natatorium footprint is the same size as the existing parking garage. If the pool is built on top of the first level of the garage, this would allow 100 spaces to remain. Additional parking spaces, if needed, may be negotiated with Pilgrim Church, which has an empty parking lot during school hours. I realize there are many considerations given the inherent complexity of a natatorium, but I would expect a thorough review of this site location.


Posted: December 5th, 2014 1:34 PM

@Full Circle: One of the many problems with the possible Scoville "offsite" plan is that nobody has bothered to ask any of the residents who live on S. Scoville or in that neighborhood what they think of closing their access. If that is even a part of their plan, then the whole "open process" is complete baloney. So far, no one has said that is NOT the "offsite" plan, so suspicions are running high south of the tracks that skullduggery is in the works.

All the girls from OPRFHS  

Posted: December 5th, 2014 12:35 PM

We hereby approve any option that removes swimming from PE altogether. News flash...no one wants to reapply makeup or fix hair after spending one hour doing that before school. Trust me, only the swim team wants this. #bieberh8swimclass #staydry #nochlorine4maureen

Full Circle Backwards from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2014 12:35 PM

The 2008 Visionary Plan for RCRC called for an indoor community pool to be built as part of the new facility but, at a total cost of $100 million, that plan was deemed "to costly." Now we are looking at a "least costly option" offsite facility, apparently adjacent to RCRC, for $50 million, not including the costs of acquiring & improving the property, apparently Scoville Avenue, or the additional shared costs from "another taxing body," apparently the VOP or the PDOP. Full circle backwards.

Thoughtful from Oak Park   

Posted: December 5th, 2014 11:09 AM

I like the idea of a pool facility that could be shared by the community and OPRF. I'm not sure why that facility couldn't have been across the street at Ridgeland Common - except perhaps for the fact that an enormous ice rink took all the space. Lap swimming is fantastic exercise that can be practiced by ALL AGES. Can the same be said for ice skating and gymnastics? NO, yet we have multi-million dollar facilities for these sports. Swimming is the single best exercise there is!


Posted: December 5th, 2014 7:52 AM

South Scoville, by the way, is not a "spur" or a "stub", as it's been referred to in past meetings. It's an important access street for cars, pedestrians and bikes. Closing it makes the already chaotic traffic at East and Ridgeland even worse--and it cuts an entire neighborhood off from the park, the school, Farmers Market, among other things. Bad idea. Horrible idea.


Posted: December 5th, 2014 7:48 AM

I'm concerned about the supposed "undetermined" off-site location. How can it be undetermined, yet have a budget already? Probably because the unpopular idea of closing S. Scoville is being negotiated behind the scenes. This allegedly open process is a bit of a joke if that's the case. The minutes on the web site haven't even been updated since October.


Posted: December 5th, 2014 6:32 AM

Fellow voters who oppose this project, please come out and vote if this every hits the referendum. How can get D200 to shake loose all the surplus cash they have now? Getting back our money is like wrestling with a drunk valet who has your car keys.

Ken C. from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2014 11:42 PM

Why hasn't the athletic field across Lake Street been mentioned as a possible site for the pool?


Posted: December 4th, 2014 2:02 PM

On behalf of ultimate Frisbee and bocci ball teams, we feel we need a new facility as well. We believe that a state of the art facility might cost $150-160MM and we can sell bonds.

A Want - Not A Need from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2014 1:37 PM

Refurbishing the existing pools was est. at $17 million. Why is that option missing here? It wouldn't displace other sports. Why devote so much space & $$$ to swimming? Swim community is narrowly focused on it's own needs, not on the big picture of other sports, limited $ and taxpayer wallets. Shouldn't the board be big picture oriented? Ha! This is about ego, clout and is nothing but a vanity project for those pushing it given the expense and opportunity costs for other sports.

Swim/Tennis not required PE  

Posted: December 4th, 2014 8:50 AM

@Scott, pools are currently used by all students in PE. Problem is State PE req'mts do not require swmg/tennis. OPRF chose this...w/o it, they need more gym space. FIND cheaper PE solutions w/o swim/tennis, please!


Posted: December 4th, 2014 8:33 AM

If the district is spending so much on the pool, it should be used by all students and not just by swim teams. A goal should be to make the best use of the pool, so it should be built on site. If baseball and tennis are not part of the PE curriculum and are only used for after school activities, then work with the OPPD to move those facilities off site. This seems obvious to me. Am I missing something?

Lyle Lanely  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 10:32 PM

You know, a town with money is a little like the mule with the spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it. I come before you good people tonight with an idea. Probably the greatest... Aw, it's not for you. It's more of an EVANSTON idea. OK, it's Super-Pool 5000! I've sold pools to Brockway, Ogdenville, and North Haverbrook, and by gum I've put them on the map! Well sir, there's nothing on Earth like a genuine, bona-fide, aquafied, ten-lane pool! What'd I say?

RichF from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 10:13 PM

What about instead of replacing the tennis courts, putting the pool under the courts. It could be put halfway under ground with the courts on top of it.

Mark Graham from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 7:01 PM

Please explain why the existing pool is not sufficient. It is in current use, is it not? Can it be maintained in a way to keep it in use? Some connected folks have their hearts set on a 50 meter $50 million pool project, or $1 million dollars per meter. WOW.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 5:25 PM

@Chris Goode: Apart from the structural support issues (and access for spectators at that height), there would be a problem with greatly exceeding the Village's height limitations in the surrounding residential neighborhood. That detracts from character also. To preserve an open look, that's one reason the building would abut the stadium visitor bleachers, and leave the north area green.

Jim Egeberg  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 4:59 PM

It would be a shame if the final decision is to build over current open space. We have such little open space in the Village, and we should preserve it. The garage site seems to be the best, but the cost of underground parking is steep, but worth the cost to preserve open space.

Chris Goode from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 4:20 PM

I agree that the parking lot site is the best. As an architect myself, I would like to know if the school's architects have explored the feasibility of putting the pool on top of the existing garage instead of removing the garage and building a new pool over new underground parking. Certainly there are structural issues to work out. My understanding is that the garage was designed to accommodate an additional level of parking. Perhaps it could accommodate a new pool facility instead.

john murtagh from op  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 4:12 PM

Dan - Very difficult to separate the words board and developer.

J from RF  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 3:14 PM

In terms of potential partners for an off-site location, has anyone approached the River Forest Park District? RF badly needs a pool that is open for community use. Is the Oilily site still available?

Bob Trezevant from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 3:05 PM

The high school can buy the parking garage from the village. High school money is taxpayer dollars, so buying the garage is really taking $3 million of our money and transferring it from the school's pocket (us) to the village?s pocket (us). To me this is a win-win- win situation. The school (we) gets the best site for the pool, the village (we) is relieved of a debt, and we taxpayers (at no additional cost to our selves) can redeem at least some of our costly investment in the garage.

Gary from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 1:49 PM

All remaining options require new land. The Committee says building on the current baseball field "assumes either baseball, softball, or tennis is moved to an off-site location." Yet its 11/3/14 minutes reflect merely a couple of vague, unexplored possible such sites. If the Board can't bite the bullet on the garage site, then the pool should go to the new mystery site, vs. displacing other programs into limbo. This also is the cheapest option and further allows sharing costs with other users.

Dan Koenig from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 12:57 PM

I don't doubt the board's good faith, though I can't say the same for the developers, but now D200 must justify the special treatment they're giving the pool proponents: years of meeting time, serious consideration for massive spending. Yes, they deserve some attention, the pool is in bad shape, but I'm mystified by the disproportionate benefit to this one (small) group, not to mention the prospect of putting this on the shoulders of all taxpayers. Put such effort/$ to improve academics for all.

Pragmatic from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 10:40 AM

If any OPRF sports facility is to be moved offsite, it should be the one with the smallest footprint: the tennis courts. Then use capital fund to build a Chevrolet (not Cadillac) pool between the football and baseball fields and create a new a new turf baseball/softball field complex to the North. New OPRF tennis courts built on a PDOP site; expensive but necessary parking garage is not torn down; and the South end of OPRF updated w/ bonds. How could this not be the least expensive option?

Dooper from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 10:08 AM

These numbers are ridiculous! The field house should be renovated. The pools should be re done to the new state standards. But that shouldn't cost $100 million! The school needs to get real bids, real prices and a longer term outlook. Having all the facilities are onsite is a huge bonus. I remember going to Thatcher for practice. That sucked! Also, this is a great time to issue some bonds. I would think OPRF HS would be able to borrow pretty cheaply....

Want to stay in Oak Park from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2014 8:14 AM

48 Million for a pool? 60 Million for a pool? Really? Oh and don't forget D97 plans on a referendum in 2017. It is obvious that the school boards believe that taxpayers are an unlimited source of funds and will pay anything to live in Oak Park. I guess we'll see if they are right in the next few years.

JPD from River Forest  

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 11:08 PM

Am I understanding this correctly? Just 14 years ago D 200 built a garage. And now that is going to be torn down so the pool can be built and you want parking underneath a pool? The field house has been showing its age for quite some time...at least 30 yrs. Why can't that be the plan? Oh...right...so 14 years from the completion of this project more money will need to be spent on another project instead of optimizing the use of taxpayer $ now. A D200 referendum won't get much support in RF.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 10:55 PM

THERE IS FAT! After the 2013 Oak Park Village election a lot of people thought the village was ready for change and had the right leader. I was one of them and decided to do some analysis to see if there was easy ways to reduce the village budget. So I did a study of the cost of Full Time Employees (FTE's) in nearby communities. After a preliminary review I eliminated Police and Fire from the study. On a 10,000 residents per full time employee, all were about the same. I then concentrated on "General FTE", non-police and fire. Here are some results and the estimated impact on the OP General Fund Budget. The most efficient were Berwyn (84 General FTE's per 1000 resident), (Park Ridge 96), Lombard (97), Buffalo Grove (98), Downers Grove (122) and Wheaton (118). The highest number of General FTE's per 1000 residents was Oak Park (193), Orland Park (155), Crystal Lake (132), and Elmhurst (131). Here's the kicker. If Oak Park's FTE's matched Park Ridge's it would save (7.7m) a year, Wheaton $5.5m a year, Downer Grove - $5.1m, Elmhurst - $4.2m. Why is it that some communities have vastly different FTE's than others? It's easy, communities that took the big step into the Information Age saved millions of dollars. Others did not. OP is a not! I sent the full report to the OP Village Board and expected to get a reply. No reply was received. I did hear from a board member that the staff thought the analysis was not worth pursuing. I doubt that the village even ran the numbers.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 10:39 PM

I am tired of the board members thinking that all taxpayers are just made of money. Multi-million dollar pools, administration buildings that do nothing to address academics do little to encourage me to vote for D97 or D200 on any referendum.

steve from oak park  

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 8:20 PM

so why didn't they just put a roof over the ridgeland pool during remodeling? minimal disturbance, parking lot could have remained and $$ saved?

Done2 from Oak Park  

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 7:53 PM

Like the sands of time?so too does the athletic program forget. When the Football team wanted lights on the stadium field, the number one argument was "so we don't have to bus athletes to alternate locations for practice and games/" Now when looking to spend $50+M on a pool, no less, its fine to think baseball, softball and tennis can easily be bussed elsewhere. R U KIDDING ME OPRFHS? Renovate the Fieldhouse and be done. And re referendum, hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahh


Posted: December 2nd, 2014 7:23 PM

1/6 of a billion dollars to redo field house? Does anyone realize this is cra cra? OMG, please do this after I move out of OP so I don't have to be part of bankruptcy filing.


Posted: December 2nd, 2014 4:38 PM

I thought the original baseball field construction estimate was $30 M. Now it's $48 M. Is that right?

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 4:36 PM

"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." Good luck with that one also. Hopefully there are enough folks in this town that have seen enough of the crap disguised as "for the children" when it comes to referendums. I will never vote "yes" on any referendum as long as I live here.

Done from Oak Park  

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 4:12 PM

"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. " Good luck with that one. Can't wait to hear of all the programs that will be cut while administrators sit in a new building and we are still paying for Fast Forward, Rosetta Stone and iPads, not to mention Roberts' pension.

Steve from RF  

Posted: December 2nd, 2014 3:09 PM

The off-site option seems very ambiguous. Were any locations discussed or partnerships proposed? Other than that it Sounds like some real progress was made so kudos to this committee!


Posted: December 2nd, 2014 2:35 PM

I don't understand why we are not considering the massive renovation of the field house. I honestly believe that this is the best option in the long run. OPRF has one of the oldest field house in the state and it is showing it's age in recent years. The massive renovation would allow us to save money and also time.

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