DeKALB - Though Monday’s post-Easter weather might not show it, pool season is right around the corner, and as the DeKalb Park District prepares Hopkins Pool, a question remains: How to replace the aging community staple for future generations?
That question was posed to community members last month in an aquatics community engagement survey as part of the park district’s ongoing efforts to collect resident feedback to better inform plans for the pool’s future. A park district Board of Commissioners meeting set for April 28 will continue that discussion using the 830 responses from the survey.
According to survey responses published in April, 97% of those who responded -- which includes 705 responses from DeKalb residents and 581 responses from families who said they use Hopkins Pool -- “agreed or strongly agreed” that the pool adds value to the community. About two dozen responses said they don’t think the pool adds value.
There will be additional opportunities for the public to weigh in, said Katie Drum, marketing coordinator for the park district. She said the survey identified 103 people who said they’d be willing to be involved in a public advisory committee for pool planning. She said the park board will take analysis from the survey and plan to discuss the formation of the advisory committee at its meeting later this month.
“Feedback from the committee, paired with survey results from 2020 and 2022, pool study results, and direction from the park board and district staff, will all help determine the future of the pool project and fine-tune the scope of work for a potential replacement,” Drum said.
The 2022 Hopkins pool season will be open for the full season, May 28 through Sept. 5, no interruptions, Drum said. If the district were to move forward with a complete pool replacement, a tentative construction timeline would mean a shortened season in 2023. The new pool would then be slated to reopen in 2024.
The upcoming discussions and creation of a community advisory team are the latest in the park district’s years-long effort to determine the future of the pool.
According to a 2020 community engagement campaign, district officials said they’ve determined the nearly 90-year-old pool means replacement is more feasible than repair because of structural cracking in the shell which can cause corrosion and weaken the pool structure. The pool, while built in the early 1930s, according to park district documents, has an existing shell that’s nearly 50 years old.
A 2020 feasibility study by The Larson & Darby Group and Counsilman-Hunsaker presented a proposal for a hybrid pool model, which would demolish the existing pool structure. It’s projected to cost $7.8 million, according to the study. It would include three new pool areas, including a 5,400-square-foot leisure pool with waterslides, three lap lands and a current channel; a 1,400-square-foot pool with 1 meter diving, a waterslide and a climbing wall; and 4,800-square-foot children’s pool with zero-depth entry and multi-level play structure.
No final decision has yet been made on what direction the park district plans for pool designs, however.
According to district documents, plans to fund a new Hopkins Pool project are expected to come from the district’s capital fund, meant to set aside money for big budget projects. The district also expects to pursue long-term bonds to help pay for the project.
When asked in the 2022 survey whether community members would be in favor of a joint aquatic facility with one or more neighboring local communities, 74% of surveyors said they would be OK with that plan, while 25% said they wouldn’t support a joint facility.
Many who responded against a joint pool facility said they thought the pool was already crowded enough.
Next steps as the park district plans to create a community committee include outlining architecture and engineering plans. Drum said architecture plans are in the park district’s 2022-2023 budget.
“However, the Park Board is still discussing whether there would be an extensive repair or a complete replacement of Hopkins pool, nothing has been formally approved at this time,” Drum said.