It’s been a great summer for hanging out at a pool. And in Forest Park – where the park district’s crown jewel has two flume slides, two drop slides, two diving boards, a playground with sand, and a spray ground – hot weather has meant big crowds at the Aquatic Center, better known as “the pool.”
“The pool is doing great,” Park District Superintendent of Recreation Erin Parchert told the members of the park board last week.
With still almost a month to go in pool season, daily admission revenue has almost equaled that for all of last year, according to Chris Richards, acting treasurer for the park district. Last summer season, the park district took in about $61,000 in daily fees. This year, Richards said, it’s already taken in $55,496. Revenues from admission are up about 20 percent over last year, he said.
Regulars like 12-year-old Delaney Doolin are keeping up this season’s attendance numbers.
“I come pretty much every day,” says Delaney. “I hang out with my friends in the pool; go off the slides and the diving board.”
The village pool, which got amped up and graduated to the Aquatic Center in 1996, closes only if there’s lighting, heavy rain, a drop in temperature to below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, a chemical or mechanical problem, or when there are fewer than 10 people there for an hour.
So far this summer, the pool has had to be closed only twice, and for weather each time.
“It’s just been very consistently busy this year,” Parchert said.
Of course, with bigger crowds come added costs: more chlorine, more hours for lifeguards, more electricity to run the water pumps.
“We’re spending more money because the pool is open more,” Parchert said. It’s unclear whether the pool will turn a profit this year. Typically, it doesn’t; money is transferred to the pool fund from the park district’s corporate account.
“It’s hard to tell right now what our bottom line is going to be, but we do always budget to transfer a little bit of money,” Parchert said.
Sensitive to the tough economic times, the park district didn’t raise rates this year for either daily admission or for season passes. In a revamped marketing campaign, it advertised the pool in local papers in and near Forest Park. It also touted the pool on Facebook and Twitter.
“We get a lot of nonresidents from all of the surrounding communities, especially the communities that don’t have outdoor public aquatic facilities,” Parchert said.
Monday night, Gil Guzman came from Maywood to swim laps in one of the Aquatic Center’s two dedicated lap lanes. Even though Maywood has its own pool, Guzman prefers Forest Park’s pool.
“They have better hours and it’s more structured where you can do lap swims and it’s more spacious,” Guzman says.
Eric and Christy Swanson have brought their young sons to the pool whenever possible this summer.
“We’ve been here like 25 times,” Eric Swanson said.
The pool is great for 4-year-old Gus and 2½-year-old Eli, says their mom.
“We love the pool,” Christy Swanson said. “We like the zero depth (area). It’s a good place for small kids, the playground, the sand. There are a lot of areas for different age groups.”
Parchert points to the slides, the diving boards and the play areas.
“We do strive to be family-oriented and have something for all of the people,” she said. “Our pool is great and I just want everyone to come out and enjoy the rest of the summer.”
The pool will remain open until Labor Day.