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CHAMPAIGN — How much do folks want to dive back into their park swimming pools later this month?

Put it this way: In the hours after Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Illinois would begin allowing increased capacity limits at public places beginning next Friday, the phone of Champaign Park District Aquatics and Fitness Manager Brittany Fairfield began ringing — a lot.

“I received 19 calls in less than 24 hours,” she said. “People are very, very, very excited. I have heard nothing but please open the pool. We don’t care what it looks like.”

The state’s move to the bridge phase of its Restore Illinois reopening plan also came with news that all capacity limits across the state could end June 11 — barring any reversals in current COVID-19 trends.

“It’s going to cause some massive updates to what we were planning,” Fairfield said.

Revised plans finalized Friday mean the Sholem Aquatic Center will open Memorial Day weekend for the summer without using a reservation system or time slots for swimmers, she said.

Sholem will be open regular hours at 50 percent capacity, which is 800 people, she said.

“I hated not being open last year,” Fairfield said. “We are so excited. I cannot wait to get this facility open and give people a little bit of normalcy that we didn’t get last year.”

The Urbana Park District has already responded to the update from the state by announcing it won’t be requiring reservations for its Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center.

Executive Director Tim Bartlett said the outdoor pool could reopen with 60 percent capacity, but for safety’s sake, it will reopen at 50 percent capacity, “which is 500 for us.”

While Urbana residents want to see activities return, he said, “there’s an overwhelming request to do it safely.”

The Urbana Park District’s first public event for this summer — an art fair at Crystal Lake Park set for Aug. 7 — was already in the planning stages before the bridge phase announcement was made and is moving ahead.

How much the park district can offer overall will depend on filling its job openings, Bartlett said.

Staffing “is super thin, and we’re super worried,” he said.

Terri Reifsteck, vice president of marketing and community engagement at Visit Champaign County, said the cities of Champaign and Urbana haven’t been granting event permits so, with the coming of the bridge phase, details will have to be worked out about resuming community events.

Meanwhile, she said the higher capacity limits are going to have a significant impact on tourism with the ability to increase the size of such private events as weddings and bring back larger meetings and conventions, she said.

Under the bridge phase, the capacity limits for indoor social events will be increased from the lesser of 50 people or 50 percent capacity to the lesser of 100 people or 50 percent capacity.

There will be a more significant increase in gathering sizes for outdoor social events, which are currently limited to the lesser of 100 people or 60 percent capacity.

When the bridge phase starts, the capacity for those outdoor events will grow to 500 people.

For meetings and conferences — currently limited to the lesser of 50 people or 50 percent capacity at smaller venues and the lesser of 250 people or 25 percent capacity for larger venues — the bridge phase will allow capacity to be the lesser of 1,000 people or 60 percent for both larger and smaller venues.

Here are some of the other capacity changes coming up in the bridge phase:

  • Retail, personal care businesses and offices: Changing from
  • 50 to 60 percent.
  • Theaters and performing arts, zoos, ticketed and seated spectator events, museums and amusement parks: All increasing to 60 percent.
  • Restaurants: Capacity for seated areas will remain the same, but capacity for standing areas will increase from 25 percent (indoors and outdoors) to 30 percent indoors and 50 percent outdoors.
  • Recreation: Now limited to the lesser of 50 people or half capacity indoors and maximum groups of
  • 50 outdoors with multiple groups allowed, recreation venues will be allowed to have the lesser of 100 people or 50 percent capacity indoors and groups of up to 100 outdoors with multiple groups allowed.

Health and fitness: Expanding from 50 to 60 percent, with capacity for group classes remaining the same.

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