CHAMPAIGN — Officials still are undecided whether to build a new pool at Spalding Park, but they are approaching the final details of a facelift for the entire area.
Park district officials months ago decided not to reopen the pool this summer after it had deteriorated beyond repair. That opened the door for a complete renovation to the park, the details of which are being worked out now.
The conceptual designs include new, separate paths for walkers and skateboarders, tennis and pickle ball courts and a "spray park," with water features for kids.
But no pool.
Park board officials this week decided they wanted to see more options before moving forward with a pool-free redesign of the park.
"It's a viable park as it is today, but we need to be able to better serve what the residents want to see in there," park district Executive Director Bobbie Herakovich said.
Park board members say a pool at Spalding Park could alleviate some of the demand for pools throughout the city. Board member Jane Solon said she's a frequent lap swimmer at Sholem Aquatic Center, but it's often too crowded.
But out of the 72 days the Spalding Park 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.
"We tried that for a long time and figured out what happens at that location," park board member Joseph Petry said.
Board member Barbara Kuhl echoed his comments, but said she would like to see more information before making a decision one way or another.
If the district were to build a new pool, "somehow you've got to get the people here for that activity," Kuhl said. "When it was open, the people weren't there."
The park district for now will move forward with the demolition of the closed Spalding Park pool. Even if officials decide to build a new pool, the existing pool is in such disrepair that it would have to come down anyway, Herakovich said.
Pools aren't cheap, either. If Spalding Park were to get a new pool, it would be at least several years out as existing park district funds are committed to other projects. Building a new facility would require the district to undergo years of "austere" budgeting and could require some kind of borrowing, Herakovich said.
Aside from the pool debate, board members were generally positive about the overall redesign of Spalding Park.
"We're looking to bring positive activity into the park," Herakovich said.