The Forest Park Aquatic Center will again start admitting non-residents who don’t have seasonal passes when it reopens this summer, ending the ban that was put in place on June 16, 2022.
The ban was implemented after “several hundred’ teens responded to a Snapchat party invitation and stormed the pool on the evening of June 15. This was supposed to be a stop-gap measure because the park district had no way to keep track of non-residents, who weren’t required to register with the park district or show IDs. But starting this year, all residents and non-residents will need to have online accounts, which addresses the issue.
Under the system approved during the Dec. 15, 2022 meeting of the park district Board of Commissioners, residents and non-residents will pay $15 per visit. The park district is also reducing pass rates for residents and non-residents alike, while getting rid of family passes altogether. Park district executive director Jackie Iovinelli told the commissioners that the family passes were ripe for abuse.
The new daily rate represents an increase for residents and non-residents alike. During the last pool season, residents paid $9 a person while non-residents paid $13 a person. Resident seniors paid $4, while non-resident seniors paid $8.
During the last pool season, seasonal pool pass rates were $97 per individual for residents and $164 for non-residents. People aged 60 and over got a discount – $61 for residents and $91 for non-residents. Next year, residents will pay $65 per person and non-residents will pay $130. The senior rates will drop slightly to $60 for residents and $90 for non-residents.
The Aquatic Center has long had family passes that went up in cost depending on the size of a family. Iovinelli said staff recommended doing away with them because it puts the staff in the awkward position of having to decide what is and isn’t a family when “it’s hard to define what a family looks like.”
“We did find that were people taking advantage of the process,” she added.
The commissioners agreed that simply taking the family issue off the table was the best option.
Iovinelli said staff wanted to bring the pass structure closer to the Park District of Oak Park pools. She told the Review in a follow-up interview that the alignment made sense since they are the only two park districts with public pools in the area.
The Park District of Oak Park already charges the same daily rate for everyone – $10 – and their non-resident annual pass is $90.
Limiting non-resident admissions to passholders hurt the park district financially since non-residents account for 75% of people who use the pool overall. Among the pass users, the split is about even. But Iovinelli told commissioners that “we were faced with a challenge we couldn’t handle.”
As the Review reported at the time, trouble started when the pool reached capacity at about 7:05 p.m. on June 15 and the entrance was closed. In response, the crowd charged through the front gate and jumped the fence on the east side of the center, going through the splash pad construction site. A few hundred more gathered at the entrance and refused to leave. The Forest Park Police Department ended up calling neighboring departments and the Cook County Sheriff for help, and it took another 90 minutes for them to clear the area.
Iovinelli said the teens who were in the pool when the gates closed refused to leave and threatened lifeguards with bodily harm.
In the wake of the incident, the park district suspended non-resident admissions indefinitely, “until we feel there is not a threat to our staff or patrons.” Iovinelli explained at the time that they wanted a better way to track how many people are in the pool. Residents and non-resident pass-holders were already in the system, and residents had to show their IDs to get the resident rate, she said – but there was no way to keep track of non-residents.
Iovinelli told the commissioners that the new rates will be a significant step forward.
“We want to protect the taxpayer facilities and that’s how we thought would be the best option,” she said. “it’s a fair rate, it’s reasonable rate.