Your Views on $7.1 Million Pool Plan Welcome, Park Board Says

Rick Biagi, president of the Park Ridge Park District Board, wanted the public to have more time to react to the $7.1 million price tag, so the board will delay voting on the plan until Dec. 6. Residents can attend a Thursday meeting to learn, comment.


The Park Ridge Park District was planning to vote Thursday to approve spending $7.1 million on a plan to replace the two main pools at the Centennial Pool complex. 

Because the hefty price tag had only been announced last Thursday, Nov. 8, and information about the pool plan was not posted on the park district's website until yesterday evening (Nov. 13), the district has moved that vote to Dec. 6, said Gayle Mountcastle, the district's executive director. 

Residents of the district, who live in Park Ridge and the southwest part of Niles, are welcome to learn more about the plan and express opinions at tomorrow's meeting, 7:30 p.m. at Maine Leisure Center, 2701 Sibley Street, Park Ridge, she said.

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"I'm happy we're taking more time to do this," said Rick Biagi, president of the park district board. "We've got to consider some deadlines (to get the new pools planned and constructed in time for a 2014 summer season). But we don't want to make rash decisions and spend $7 million on something we haven't properly thought through."

In planning stages for a year, but many residents didn't know

The park district has been working on the Centennial Pool plan for more than a year--including such moves as hiring a pool consultant to assess the condition of the pool-- but district residents first heard about it only when the fall program guide arrived in homes in August. In a column on page 4, Biagi wrote one paragraph saying that the pools, at nearly 60 years old, have outlived their expected 40-year lifespan, and that the board would be looking at replacing them with an outdoor aquatic complex. The park district did not have cost projections then, so none were given.

Some, but not all, residents learned of plans before August

A portion of residents, but not all residents, received word of the improvements at Centennial in other ways. About 3,500 households, which makes up a third of households in the district, received a Community-Wide Survey in Fall 2011 asking about their preferences and priorities for the park district, Mountcastle said. They represented a statistically valid sample for surveying purposes; about 500 surveys on paper were also placed at park district facilities for interested patrons, she said.

Another portion of the resident population, those who have signed up to receive email notices from the park district, received an email informing them the Nov. 8 informational meeting on the Centennial  proposal would be held.

Yet another portion of the resident population participated in focus groups; some of these included representatives from the city and the Park Ridge Library, Mountcastle said.

Patch also reported in late August that the district would be holding informational meetings to ask residents their opinions on the conceptual plans for the new Centennial pool complex. 

Pool designed for different age groups and swimming abilities

Mountcastle said the new aquatic complex, would meet the needs of different age groups and interests. 

Updating the complex in such a way as to maintain the two existing holes in the ground would not be in keeping with today's standards for what communities expect in a pool, she said.

"That wouldn't be responsible," she said. "If you do two rectangular pools, you limit the age and interest of people you can serve." 

Biagi said that in the past week, some district residents he talked to have questioned whether the district should even go ahead with the Centennial pool replacement.

"That surprised me because we have two failing pools that will be lucky to make it through next season," he said. "If they fail, we'll only have Hinckley (Pool)."

Hinckley is considerably smaller, could not accommodate the number of bathers who typically come to Park Ridge pools, and is also quite old and could fail before long, he noted.

"I've viewed this (Centennial pool proposal) as something we have to do to bring the pool up to modern standards," he said. "We'd have a mutiny in Park Ridge if we let those pools fail."

To comment on the proposal for the pool, residents can attend the Nov. 15 meeting or:

  • Call (847) 692-3482
  • Email comment@prparks.org 
Wendy November 15, 2012 at 10:09 PM
Although the park district has not been great about maintaining its facilities in the past, I trust the current park board to manage the great resources we do have. I believe that we as a community should encourage them to do so. I use Centennial pool quite a bit and realize that it has far exceeded its life span and is a community resource that many in PR(and other towns) use. I see families there, but also seniors and people who want to swim for exercise. We must update Centennial so that it can last another 50 years or more. One question I have for the Park District is what is the expected lifespan of the new Centennial pools? Also, a reminder that the plan for Centennial pool does not involve a tax increase, an important point that should not be overlooked.
Carol Kazuk Paddock November 17, 2012 at 02:12 AM
It is very important to remember that the problems with the city's budget have absolutely nothing to do with the Park District. Both budgets are entirely separate. The city began to run into budget problems under the previous mayor and councilmen who unwisely entered into the failed TIF agreement. One way we can maintain our home values and continue to make Park Ridge attractive to future buyers is by promoting Park Ridge's good schools and other amenities such as the Park District. We should "keep up with the times". The proposed Centennial plan is similar to other well-attended facilities in neighboring communities. As for the Youth Campus land, it is a "gem", "one-of-a-kind". The people of Park Ridge would be foolish to lose the last remaining green open space in our town. We are already short on park space per population. The Youth Campus could potentially become a park roughly the size of Centennial Park that all residents could use and enjoy. Parks have proven to be desirable in the suburbs and do increase home values. On the other hand, crowded housing developments are not desirable. Having a developer "smush" 45+ houses onto the Youth Campus land would have a negative impact on Park Ridge--more traffic, over-populated schools. So, let's maintain and restructure our pools and parks as well as purchase the last available open green space in Park Ridge--the Youth Campus land. Let's keep Park Ridge the uncrowded, charming, desirable community that it is.
Quagmire November 24, 2012 at 11:15 AM
Non-residents who want to use this pool should pay much more than residents. Alot more. What is the attraction for being a Park Ridge resident?? LIke allowing Chicagoans to be able to send their kids to Maine South. Why am I paying all these taxes in Park Ridge so skirting cities and suburbs who pay 1/6th of what I am paying can send their kids to Park Ridge schools???!!! Charge the non-residents a much higher admission rate.
Quagmire November 24, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Do not cram 45 homes into the youth campus- keep it open space. Why would Park Ridge want to shoot itself and the residents in the foot by putting all those homes in there??? 45 homes would be ridiculous. I originally imagine 20 at the most, but whatever developer and whoever is trying to push all these homes in that beautiful space does not have Park Ridges best interest in mind.
Erv Schweiger January 09, 2013 at 06:27 AM
This is an insult to the voters of Park Ridge who have twice (? at least twice) turned down referendums to refurbish the pool complex on Oakton. The voters have spoken, we do not want to commit tax dollars to a multimillion dollar pool complex in Park Ridge. The idea that "The park district would not have to ask the voters to okay the plan in a referendum. It would not have to raise property taxes." is also a ruse since the the property tax dollars that the Park District is talking about are dollars that were being used to pay off a past bond that when paid off would have actually lowered our property tax bills. Now the Park District thinks they're entitled to those dollars and to continue that revenue stream without voter approval. How arrogant can they be? The voters need to be able to decide this commitment of dollars - the Park District shouldn't be allowed to commit the community to this level of debt!


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