The Marengo Park District is working to redevelop its former pool, closed in 2014, into a community space and has began fundraising to make that happen, park district Director Dan Bertrand said.
“The Marengo Park District has opened a fund at the Community Foundation for McHenry County to launch a fundraising effort for an exciting new community space,” Bertrand said.
Now called Venue in the Park, fundraising was kicked off with the Finzel family and Prairie Community Bank donating $1,000 and $500, respectively.
The pool closed because it had become too expensive to operate and needed repairs, including making it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Bertrand, the former superintendent at Marengo High School District 154, who took over as the part-time director of the park district about a year ago.
Neither is there apparent community interest in a pool. In a November 2018 advisory referendum, the park district asked residents whether they were interested in reopening the Indian Oaks Park pool and whether they would increase taxes to pay for it. The final tally showed 73% of voters said no to the idea.
Bertrand said Venue in the Park “will transform unused space previously occupied by the outdoor pool into a sustainable, engaging multipurpose destination.”
The repurposed outdoor space could be used from May through October and could be an ideal space for outdoor wedding rentals and other summer parties. With a pool, “you basically get June and July. That is the most you are going to get out of it,” Bertrand said.
The proposed venue would feature an outdoor amphitheater for live concerts and other performances, rental space for private events, sand volleyball courts, bathrooms, showers and a splash pad.
“Thanks to the previous hard work of some youth groups in Marengo, about a third of the cost for the splash pad portion has been donated to the foundation and set aside for that particular feature,” said Aimee Ritter, president of the park district foundation.
With water and electricity already on-site, it brings down overall development costs, Bertrand said.
“The current pool house and the concession building are still fine, operations-wise,” Bertrand said. There will need to be new lights, paint, fixtures and equipment for the concessions area, he added, but the bathrooms and showers in the pool house are fine.
“You have the physical facilities that you need,” Bertrand said.
Bertrand also reconstituted a nonprofit park district foundation to help with fundraising. The Community Foundation for McHenry County is its fiduciary agent.
“They manage the monies raised and take care of tax filings,” Bertrand said.
The plan is to build out the Venue in the Park over several phases to spread out the costs.
“This park district has had financial issues over the years. Now that we have it in order, we can’t afford to be losing on something like that,” Bertrand said.
Fundraising will need to happen, especially for the first phase, Ritter said, noting that while the park district foundation still is discussing specifics, she thinks “once the community understands the positive impact the Venue in the Park can have on Marengo, ... people will be on board with the fundraising.”
Naming rights for portions of the development also are on the table. “We are hoping to get sizable donations, and we will name various aspects of it” for those donors, Bertrand said.
Those interested in making a donation to the project can go to the Community Foundation for McHenry County’s website at thecfmc.org.