Later pool opening, Carle effect will change Urbana parks budget

Later pool opening, Carle effect will change Urbana parks budget

URBANA — Urbana parks officials are pleased with the first week of operation at the $8.1 million Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center.

Park board members were told Tuesday that attendance for the pool's first six days was 3,474, plus another 195 who attended regular programs at the pool, including swim lessons and water aerobics.

Average daily attendance at the pool, which opened behind schedule on July 4, was 579, less than the 658 that had been projected in a financial pro forma.

But park district Executive Director Vicki Mayes said she expects attendance to grow.

"The capacity of the facility is 1,000 bathers at any point in time, and I would expect at some point that if the weather holds for this weekend, that we'll reach that point," she said. "That means there we'll have to hold people out at some point."

Last Sunday, when the temperature reached 88 degrees, was the facility's busiest day with 883 users.

"The diversity of the crowds coming to the pool has been fabulous," said Corky Emberson, superintendent of recreation for the park district. "It's exactly what we've planned."

The facility isn't quite complete, and "we're still working out some kinks here and there," he added.

Mayes added that there are "no major problems, just a lot of little things that need to be worked out."

"We are absolutely delighted with the attendance, the interest of people. It's certainly clear that it's serving many residents throughout Urbana," she said. "It's a family attraction. It's appealing to a wide range of interest, skills and ages."

Because of delays in the opening of the aquatic center, the park district has reduced its financial and attendance projections for this year. There will be only 61 swim days, instead of the 94 that would have been provided if the pool had opened as scheduled on June 1.

Attendance projections have been dropped from 61,923 to 40,185, and estimated revenue from daily admissions, pass sales and party rentals has been reduced from $341,150 to $230,300.

Also Tuesday:

— The park board approved a budget and appropriation ordinance for the fiscal year beginning May 1 that includes budget cuts required because of the loss of about $640,000 in property taxes. The cuts are the result of a new state law allowing hospitals like the Urbana-based Carle Foundation Hospital to receive credit for charity care offered.

"By not receiving the tax money that we had expected after we had done our planning, that really created a challenge for us," she said. "But we'll have much more flexibility next year than this year. But we've lost a whole year of projects. That's tough."

The projects deferred this year, Mayes said, include the completion of work at the Japanese gardens at Crestview Park, planning for a replacement playground at Wheatfield Park, and painting at pavilions and shelters. Also, a small equipment budget line item was eliminated and the technology budget was reduced.

About $250,000 in spending at the new aquatic center also will be put off, she said.

"We had a budget that was adequate to buy equipment and so on but as we were evaluating it, not all of it was needed. So we were able to shift that to help with the shortfall in the operating budget," she said. "There's nothing that won't be done at the pool. But we did evaluate the budget and realized we had a sufficient amount to do everything we needed to do."

Mayes said another $250,000 in cuts must be made to the park district's operating budget during the year.

— Mayes said a group of 16 maintenance and grounds employees have petitioned the Illinois Labor Relations Board to be represented by the Service Employees International Union.

No other park district employees are represented by unions, she said.

Melissa Mylinski, the executive director of the board, said Wednesday that if the park district does not object by Monday, the request could be approved this month.

"We're still considering what is appropriate for us to do," said Mayes.

— Approved a $172,704 contract with Dodds Company for the rehabilitation of the Carle Park pavilion.