CHAMPAIGN — With a pile of leaves gathering in its corner, Spalding Pool sat empty on Thursday — and just as well, with temperatures near freezing. But unlike more than 40 seasons in the past, it will not open again when the weather gets warm.
Champaign Park District officials have talked about closing the pool for years, but with the decision final as of this month, the future of the facility and its surrounding park is just now in the development stages.
"Just basically over the years, the pool has fallen into a state of disrepair that is no longer financially viable to take care of," said Laura Auteberry, marketing and development director for the park district.
The whole park is now due for a redesign, as officials consider what to do with the adjacent baseball field, tennis and basketball courts, playground and skate park.
It will be based largely on a recently-completed "community-needs assessment," which describes what kind of park facilities are in demand throughout the city. Auteberry said park officials are just starting to determine what that assessment means for Spalding Park.
"That included asking residents what they might like to see happen with that park," Auteberry said.
That means a master plan for the entire park, which will guide what happens to it in the future, is in its early stages, too.
For more than 40 years, the pool has been a summer cooling station and a location for day camps and swimming lessons. But it is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Auteberry said "profound" leaks have become a problem.
"There are things that we would have to rectify that we simply don't have the funds to do," Auteberry said.
In the meantime, the programs that had been held at Spalding Pool will be moved to the pool at Centennial High School.
Rebecca Runge, who lives within sight of the pool, particularly appreciated the shallow wading pool.
"I have 11 kids, and all of my kids have used it," she said on Thursday. "And I have 20 grandbabies."
But her family's use of the pool has dropped off in recent years, she said. They have a private pool in their backyard, now, and it will work just as well now that Spalding has closed.
Some residents said they were not aware the pool had closed, and they weren't too concerned about it anyway.
Out of the 72 days the pool was open in 2011, it closed early 15 times due to low attendance, according to meeting minutes from an October park board meeting. Based on a survey of Spalding users, the general perception was that the pool was dirty and dangerous.
"Frankly, public swim at Spalding was pretty slim," Auteberry said.
This story appeared in print on Jan. 27, 2012.