Residents invited to help plot Spalding Pool's future
CHAMPAIGN – It's not surprising that Spalding Pool got splashed on a little last year.
Thirty-seven years old, open to the general public for just four hours each weekday afternoon, Spalding Pool was definitely overshadowed last year with the July 1 opening of the new $7 million Sholem Aquatic Center.
Offering features like tube and body slides and a lazy river, Sholem drew more than 65,000 customers in a little over two months. That compared to 17,833 customers for Spalding, with most of those coming in June while Sholem was still under construction.
But that doesn't mean the neighborhood surrounding Spalding Pool, located at 910 N. Harris Ave., doesn't care about its pool. The pool, which includes eight swimming lanes and a deep well, is part of Spalding Park and is a few blocks south of Bradley Avenue and east of Prospect Avenue.
Nearly 30 people attended a neighborhood meeting at the recreation center next to the pool to hear from two Champaign Park District officials, who told the audience they want their help in mapping out the pool's future.
"I'm not here to say we'll close it," said Joseph DeLuce, director of recreation for the park district. "That's not the case. But the pool is 37 years old this year. We'd like to know what the neighborhood wants once it no longer works well."
DeLuce noted that the old Sholem was replaced once it reached the age of 43 years.
"There's a lot of different ideas out there," he said. "We'd like to get feedback and see what people would like to see happen."
To that end, the park district is forming a committee to look at future options. Interested residents can attend a May 2 meeting at 6 p.m., at the pool's recreation center, to volunteer to join the committee. The panel will meet throughout the summer and issue a report at the end of its work.
During an hourlong meeting, residents said they don't want to give up their pool and that it would be better attended if the park district offered more extended hours for the general public.
John Blackwell, who lives on Harvard Street, said he and his family bought a pool pass for 15 or 20 years, but gave it up about a decade ago because Spalding Pool hours were so irregular.
"I'd get off of work at 3:30 p.m. and I'd come to the pool and the pool was closed," he said.
DeLuce said the park district used to close the pool early if there were only a few customers, but ended that practice a few years ago.
But the park district does have limited hours for the general public at the pool. It is open for public swimming from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.
"By the time you get off work, the pool is closed," said Bobbi Trist, who lives on Maple Street.
The pool keeps limited hours because it offers swim lessons for park district day camps at Spalding from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and general swim lessons from 5 to 7 p.m., said Amy Crump, sports and aquatics manager for the park district.
Several residents said they would like to have extended evening hours at least one or two nights per week. Sholem stays open until 8 each night.
"I can promise you, if you're open after 5 p.m. once or twice a week, our family will be there," said David Ward, also a resident of Maple Street.
A couple of residents said they think the park district needs to build an indoor pool and that such a facility would be ideally suited for Spalding Park.
"I would like to see an indoor pool," said Joyce Hurd, who lives in the 500 block of White Street. "It is really expensive for anybody living in Champaign to swim in Urbana (which has an indoor pool) without the summer pass."
Daily admission will rise to $2.50 this year at Spalding, a $1 increase, due to the increased cost of utilities and a higher state minimum wage, Crump said.
Park District Executive Director Bobbie Herakovich, who did not attend the meeting, said residents will have a variety of possible options to consider.
"Our interest is to start some planning for the future with neighborhood input," Herakovich said. "We have an issue we know we'll need to address in the next few years."