Not So Fast On Pool Plans, Residents Say

Neighbors question the Park Ridge Park District's plans for demolishing and replacing most of the Centennial Pool complex. They had learned of the $7.1 million price tag only in the past week or so.


UPDATE: The Park Ridge Park District has provided more exact figures on the costs to just replace the two pools (discussed lower in this story). It would be $3.8 to $4.2 million, according to the park district's consultant.


Several neighbors of Centennial Park came to the Park Ridge Park District board meeting Thursday, Nov. 15, to express their dismay with the speed with which the district planned to proceed with a $7.1 million project to replace the aging pools at the park.

Residents who spoke at the meeting – none of them in favor of the plan – also took issue with park officials’ characterization of the project, saying the inclusion of two water slides and other features moves it from the “pool” to the “water park” category.

Park District Executive Director Gayle Mountcastle said the park district has known for some time that the two metal-skinned pools, at 58 years old, have long outlasted their expected useful life, and now water is leaking through stress fractures and “pinholes” caused by corrosion. 

Earlier: Your input sought on $7.1 million plan

Earlier: Audience learns about pool plan and cost Nov. 8

“The biggest reason is that these pools are failing,” she said.

She noted that the park district started laying the groundwork for this project with a mail-in survey that was sent to a portion of households in the district--a statistically significant sample-- more than a year ago.

Entire district told of plan, very briefly, in mid-August

However, no notice was made to the entire district until mid-August, when the the fall program guide contained one paragraph of general information about the Centennial pool replacement, without any estimate of the price, on page four. 

Board learned price tag Oct. 25; public saw it Nov. 8, board was supposed to vote on it Nov. 15

In June, the district asked its pool consultant to come up with a conceptual plan. However, the park board only saw the completed plan and its $7.1 million price tag at its Oct. 25 meeting. 

About 40 residents learned of the plan, and price tag, at an informational meeting Nov. 8. It intended to vote on the plan one week later, on Nov. 15. The district did not put information about the pool plan on its website until Nov. 13. 

Even before the Nov. 15 meeting, however, the park board announced it would postpone the vote until its next regular meeting, Dec. 6.

Mountcastle said the issue was on agendas for public meetings, was sent to people who have signed up for district emails and was mailed to 1,400 households who live near the park.

Residents said that information came last week, too late in the game for them to have any real input, and did not include a drawing of what the redesigned pool complex would look like.

No longer two rectangular pools

Instead of having two rectangular pools, the complex would have a pool with a gradual sloped entry, two slides on one 23-foot tower and other water features.  A second pool would have six or eight 25-yard lap lanes, depending on what the budget can accommodate. The existing kiddie pool would remain the same.

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“This is what a current community pool looks like now. This is not a water park,” Mountcastle said.

Park board vice president Mary Wynn Ryan agreed.

"I am a lifelong resident of Park Ridge and I live in this neck of the woods,” she said. “I’m comfortable with what we have come up with here. This is a replacement project and an upgrade. It’s like Centennial 2.0.”

Does not require approval from voters

Because the park district can pay for the project with non-referendum bonds and money in the bank, it does not have to seek voter approval to move forward.

$5.3 million just to replace pools in current footprints  (Update: The Park District has provided information saying the cost would be $3.8 to $4.2 million; Patch originally calculated $5.3 million based on info we had at post time)

Park board president Rick Biagi said the district had a received a rough estimate of $4 million to simply replace the existing pools, but that would not include site work to improve drainage or improvements and expansion of the parking lot, which the district might have to do anyway and which would cost about $1.3 million.

Resident Phil Oenning said that’s what the park district should do, noting that two referendums that would have replaced the pools with a water park in the 1990s failed.

“This is the third run at this,” he said. “Why can’t you just replace those pools the way they are and be done with this? It will be an eyesore.”

On the contrary, park board member Stephen Vile said, it will be an improvement.

“I think everybody realizes that the pools have outlived their usefulness,” he said. “Certainly we could just reconstruct what we have, or we could do better. The cost of replacing the pool itself is $4 million. But $1.3 million is water retention and water flow through the park, redoing the parking lot- that takes your price from $4 million to $5.3. In the process, you’re getting something that’s bringing us into a more modern  age of entertaining people.”

Watch for new survey today 

Mountcastle said that the district would have a new survey about the project on its website as of Nov. 16, and would send a flyer with the concept plan for the project to nearby homes in advance of the Dec. 6 meeting.

The district is also planning an April referendum to buy the 11.4 acre former Youth Campus and develop it as a park. It would cost $6.4 million to buy the land, plus the cost of demolishing some buildings on the property and building park features.

The district includes Park Ridge and the southwest portion of Niles. 

To comment on the proposal for the pool, residents can:

  • Call (847) 692-3482
  • Email comment@prparks.org 

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Harold Chasten November 16, 2012 at 02:04 PM
This is hilarious. Park ridge is getting a water park and residents are mad (it might attract BROWN people :0!). Can't wait to see park ridge get its own amusement park. Kinda messes with their 'quaint' little town don't it?
Kris Purtell November 16, 2012 at 06:10 PM
This reaction from the public in this article is deeply saddening!! When is Park Ridge going to stop fighting and making it nearly impossible for anyone and everyone to make improvements to this town? The Park District is NOT asking for any public money to make this upgrade and are using their own budget. The argument that why not just rebuild what is currently there is ridiculous. What worked for a pool in this town 50+ years ago can obviously be done differently in a more up to date way to attract customers today. We currently have our residents leaving our town to attend pools in other communities because they are better. Why would we not want to keep these residents and their tax dollars in Park Ridge? If one takes the time to examine the proposed plan it becomes very apparent that the park district has listened to the community input over recent years and done their best to accommodate the needs of each if their customer group needs.. We need to stop fighting everything and start to accept positive change in Park Ridge in order to keep this town attractive for our residents!
Sylvia Mallon November 16, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Typical Park Ridge snobs.
Pam DeFiglio (Editor) November 16, 2012 at 06:29 PM
Kris, the district IS using public money for this. It is not asking for a tax increase; however, the vast majority of its revenue comes from what residents pay in property taxes. That's how all local governments (city, library district, mosquito abatement district, etc.) get the money for their budgets. The park district also gets money from what people pay in program fees and pool admissions, but the vast majority comes from property taxes.
Pam DeFiglio (Editor) November 16, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Maybe you meant to say it is not raising taxes? (please see my other comment).
gemma November 16, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Pam, I have no affiliation with the Park District but I think you may be incorrect. Yes like all government bodies some of its budget comes from property taxes, however I believe the majority (meaning over 50%) of the Park District's budget comes from paid programming -which in today's big government I think that's quite impressive. But I think the bigger issue here is what makes Park Ridge a community in which people want to spend time and live in - because if people want to be here and buy houses here we all win. Although property taxes are an extremely important issue - the greatest financial impact on all of us is value of our homes - and if Park Ridge does not offer the amenities that TODAYs families want we all suffer. Although I do not have the statistics, I simply can not imagine how a modern recreational facility that keeps people healthy, brings the community together and keeps dollars from going to Niles or Glenview would be a bad thing. Yes, it takes a significant investment but if we don't make these kind of investments it will cost our community much more in the long run.
T Forte November 16, 2012 at 08:34 PM
The residents of Park Ridge need to view this as an investment in our community. This will help property value in our community and increase the attractiveness of Park Ridge. It may actually attract non-residents to come spend their money. There is no downside to this and its getting us up to what is considered the norm in a community like Park Ridge
Sue November 16, 2012 at 08:38 PM
93% of the PRPD's funding comes from the taxpayers either in the form of real estate taxes or user fees. The percentage split of this is about 50 50. So user fees are less than 50% and the taxpayers pay 93% of the PRPD funding. The water park is also only expected to break even so it may even lose money therefore being an even bigger drain on our taxes. What the PRPD offers are wants not needs and given that we are a bed room community with little in the way of tax base to produce revenue beside property taxes we must prioritize. Infrastrusture needs and school needs outweigh any PRPD wants. Many families are struggling financially with over 200 homes in foreclosure and many many more underwater. The tax dollars we pay should be spent responsibly. If the pools can be rebuilt as they are for $2 million less than the water park they are proposing then the responsibility of the PRPD board is to act responsibly.
Sue November 16, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Yes Kris the PRPD is asking for public money to fund this waterpark. 93% of the PRPD revenues are from the taxpayers of Park Ridge in the form of real estate taxes or user fees. Maybe your family budget can afford higher pool pass fees and higher property taxes, but many families cannot afford this. This water park is a want not a need-time to prioritize. Rebuilding the pools as they are is $2 miilion cheaper than a waterpark according the the PRPD board. That is our money and they need to spend it wisely not on a waterpark.
George K. November 16, 2012 at 09:37 PM
I enjoy this discussion, but lets not try to fool anyone by saying this is an investment in our community. I think they should take their "extra" money and buy the property available and then have a referendum on the pool. I think adding another park is a REAL investment in OUR community rather then closing down pools years ago on the north side of Park Ridge just to make this one better. But it seems to me that this is being done as a back door approach to build the pool without the referendum cause it will fail. Can or will the park district sign contracts saying the property taxes will not be raised to fund ANY portion of this pool? What if there are cost over runs? If you really care about ALL of Park Ridge, then you should want your funds for MORE Parks, not to just upgrade one.
Sue November 16, 2012 at 09:49 PM
There is a big downside to this $7.1 million expenditure if you live just west of Centennial Park-say the folks on Seminary. Their property values will go down. And I don't buy the argument that all property values in Park RIdge-which have been hit very hard in the last 5 years or so-will go up. People move to a suburb for three reasons-location location location.
Quagmire November 17, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Why do people call Park Ridge people snobs? Because the secretly wish they could be there and can not? Just like people that think anyone with money is bad. There are snobs and a-holes in every community. I don't like snobs either , but they all do not live in Park Ridge. It is the perception of the jealous person who may feel inferior for whatever reason to call someone a snob or hate someone because they have something they do not.
gemma November 17, 2012 at 05:15 PM
George - I completely agree that Park Ridge does need more parks, and I sincerely hope others share your view as I believe the Park District is considering purchasing the beautiful Youth Campus property and preserving it is as a park. However I don't think these have to be mutually exclusive. Sue, you are also absolutely correct that people purchase homes based on location. However, we need to ask ourselves what factors make a location desirable to home buyers. According to some recent data from the national Realtor association the top things people consider when selecting a location is schools, transportation and availability of easily accessible recreational amenities such as parks and pools. So by increasing the desirability of our location I think we are increasing the value of our properties.
Harold Chasten November 19, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Quagmire (and that name is so ridiculously laughable), a 'park ridge snob' is someone who couldn't afford to live in Glencoe. Which is utterly hilarious to the rest of us. Those few who have even heard of either town, which is a lot fewer than you think.
Quagmire November 21, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Come on, the closest you may be to Glencoe is Waukegan......


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