Park district dives into debate over opening Lions Pool

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Park district dives into debate over opening Lions Pool

February 05, 2021 - 15:04
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When it’s a sunny summer day with temperatures in the high 80s, will you send your children for a swim at the Lions Club Pool?

The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District started a discussion on whether there should be a pool season this summer, although staff isn’t sure what rules will be in place.

Kids do cannonballs into Lions Club Pool during the summer of 2016. Park district commissioners are wrestling with whether to open the pool this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to complicate operations. (Chronicle file photo)

Kids do cannonballs into Lions Club Pool in summer 2016. Park district commissioners are wrestling with whether to open the pool this year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to complicate operations. (Chronicle file photo)

The pool didn’t open in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Park District staff are hoping the story will be different for 2021, and board members who met Tuesday, Feb. 2, agreed with that assessment. 

"Come summer we still will be in a pandemic, and we don't know where we'll be at that point," said Stephanie Simpson, superintendent of recreation. For now, there's no direction on mitigation plans, capacity limits, masks required, and concession stands for public pools. 

"We know we can open safely, the question is will the community be comfortable coming to the pool," Simpson wondered. "I think it's all going to depend on what's going on in June."

“I’d like to try to find a way to make it happen,” said commissioner Steve Johnson who called the pool “a service to the community,” but hesitated about the cost. The pool operations have been a negative on the park district's budget. Commissioner Brent Bachus agreed he would like to see the pool open, but the revenue losses could hold him back on making a decision.

Commissioners agreed that a survey of those who had pool memberships in the past could give a picture of who would be interested this year.

Simpson said she has been learning what other park district administrators did to meet safety concerns last summer. In general, there were no concessions and the use of the lockers was prohibited. She said some didn’t put furniture out – if you wanted a seat you brought your own chair.

Whether H-F’s Lions Pool, 1041 Ridge Road in Homewood, will have to set similar protocols isn’t known, but hopefully the picture will look better as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19.

It may seem silly to be talking so far out about pool time, but Simpson said staff has to get life guards, order the necessary chemicals and put plans in motion to get the pool in working order.

Simpson recognizes H-F is “a very cautious community,” but she believes there will be those who would want to use the pool, even if restricted to a two-hour block of time to meet social distancing rules. She said hours and restrictions would be announced closer to June, and she said staff would be open to changing schedules and offerings as need be. 

The pool operates at a loss of about $50,000 annually. That could balloon in a year with COVID restrictions. Debbie Kopas, executive director of the park district, said 20 years ago, when there was Lions and Dolphin Lake pools, the pools were a money maker underwriting the recreation programs. Now it’s the exact opposite.