With the dog days of summer in the rearview mirror and classes back in session, it may no longer feel like summer for many.
In DeKalb, Hopkins Pool reduced staffing, scaled back hours of operation to weekends only and then closed the pool for the season after Labor Day on Sept. 5, officials said.
In Sycamore, the community pool saw its last summer in 2022. It’s not yet known what, or if, a pool will open again in Sycamore.
Officials for the DeKalb and Sycamore park districts recently provided updates on plans for their pool facilities.
DeKalb Park District Executive Director John Shea said the need for facility renovations is long overdue. He said the pool has been around since the 1930s.
“Hopkins Pool is in need of renovations due to the age of the facility,” Shea said. “Components of our pump system [and] piping, they’re outdated, and [it’s time] to find new parts for it. We’ve done as much as we can. … The other thing is it allows us to update our facility to meet the [Americans With Disabilities Act] requirements upon entryways when you come in. We need [to be] more ADA-accessible. It’s just keeping up with the times.”
The DeKalb Park District launched an online survey inquiring about interest in a community pool that would serve both the cities of DeKalb and Sycamore.
Image 1 of 12
CJ Summer, 4, from Cortland jumps to her grandma Tuesday, July 25, 2023, at Hopkins Pool in DeKalb. (Mark Busch - email@example.com)
Katie Drum, marketing manager for the DeKalb Park District, said she’s noticing a shift in the way residents are envisioning the pool serving their needs than they did years ago.
“The community’s needs for a pool look so much different in the ‘70s when the original shell was built versus today,” Drum said. “People’s idea of what kind of aquatic recreational facility they want is different to some degree, so that allows us to make some tweaks here and there and make some updates.”
DeKalb resident Rebecca Hirst, who is a season pool pass holder at Hopkins Pool, said she enjoys going for swims.
When the pool is open, she said she visits the facility at least twice a week if not more frequently.
“I think it’s a great location,” Hirst said. “If they updated some stuff, that would be awesome, but I don’t think they need to relocate or anything.”
DeKalb resident Michelle Williams recently was lounging poolside beneath some shade. She said she was enjoying her experience at Hopkins Pool.
“It has to offer a lot, especially on these hot days,” Williams said. “I think it’s great, especially for everybody that comes out. It’s very great.”
Williams said she didn’t think relocating Hopkins Pool would be a good idea.
“I think it’s a perfect location because it gives an opportunity for both DeKalb and Sycamore residents to come and swim,” Williams said. “I think it’s perfect.”
The renovations are estimated to cost the DeKalb Park District about $8.5 million, which will come in the form of an annual bond payment, but officials won’t know an exact figure until the project is put out to bid, official said.
The DeKalb Park District recently enlisted the services of IHC to serve as a construction manager for the project, officials said.
Shea said the company will help with pre-construction, construction and a final walk-through.
Cortland resident Anna Stenzel said she thinks forming a combined aquatic center between the DeKalb and Sycamore park districts would be a great idea.
“I also feel like just expanding access for this, in general, would be good because if we had some way to be reciprocal with Cortland or Malta, or some of the surrounding small towns too, that would have a way to get residents benefits for that. That would be amazing,” Stenzel said.
Shea said the timing makes sense to prioritize facility renovations now more than ever.
“Before Sycamore Park District closed, there were only two pools in the state of Illinois that had gas chlorine,” Shea said. “We were one of them, and Sycamore was the other one. … We’re the last pool that has gas chlorine, and that’s an outdated system. We want to update all of our filtration systems and then update all the mechanicals that are not working. So it’s a good opportunity right now to provide a needed amenity to the community.”
If all goes according to plan, the facility would be tentatively closed for the 2024 pool season to allow for renovations to be completed in time for the following summer, officials said.
One year after Sycamore’s 2022 community pool season ended early because of equipment failure, and 10 months after the Sycamore Park District announced the pool would close permanently, no plans for a new aquatic facility have surfaced.
Sycamore Park District staff did not respond to repeated requests for comment from the Daily Chronicle.
Sycamore’s community pool operated at a financial loss the final 11 years before the park district pulled the plug on the aquatic center, according to documents from the Sycamore Park District.
In November 2022, the district estimated that the pool would have operated at a total loss of $66,762 had it opened for the 2023 pool season.
In December 2022, Sycamore Park District Executive Director Jonelle Bailey said a new public pool would cost upward of $16 million – and according to a 2020 park district survey, some residents may prefer a waterpark-style aquatic center to a more traditional swimming pool built for lapping.
According to park district documents, a professional assessment of the facility was conducted in 2019 to establish what needed to be done to modernize the facility, but those district documents showed the modernization would cost between $5.5 million and $7 million.
Two different park districts within DeKalb County offered Sycamore residents discounts to their respective community pools, although those savings were only offered for season-long passes.
The Genoa Township Park District is offering residents of Sycamore, Kingston and Hampshire 2024 pool passes for less than the usual nonresident rate, although the cost still is more than a Genoa resident would pay.
On the other hand, the DeKalb Park District allowed Sycamore residents to buy a 2023 Hopkins Park pool pass for the same rate as DeKalb residents.
Although Sycamore was without a pool this summer, the city wasn’t without a water-based attraction. Splash Fountain Splashpad is a zero-depth water playground, located at 480 Airport Road on Legacy Campus in Sycamore.
The splashpad remains open to the public until Sunday, according to the Sycamore Park District.
Sycamore residents can use the facility for $3, and nonresidents can gain access for $5.
This story was updated at 9:26 a.m. Sept. 19, 2023 to correct the name of John Shea, executive director for the DeKalb Park District.