Oriole Pool revamp gets moving in Morton Grove
Morton Grove park board members stand at the deep end of Oriole Pool to examine its failed lining. The park district plans to build a new state-of-the-art aquatic facility to replace the current pool, built in 1969. | Joe Cyganowski~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 19, 2013 11:42AM
MORTON GROVE — Hundreds of people flocked to public pools in Morton Grove and surrounding areas last summer to beat the record-setting heat.
But unbeknownst to anyone, it would be the last time patrons swam in Oriole Pool as they knew it.
The aging pool suffered a liner failure and significant water loss at the season’s end, causing it to close indefinitely.
The Morton Grove Park District now plans to build a state-of-the-art aquatic facility at Oriole Park to replace the damaged pool.
The multi-million project, slated to start this year, could be the first in a series of capital improvements by the park district in the near future.
“There becomes a breaking point,” explained interim executive director Richard Grodsky. “You can continue to nurse it along, but when a facility becomes not useable anymore from a functional standpoint, that’s when it comes time (to replace it).
“That pool is at its breaking point,” he said.
Built in 1969 at 9200 Oriole Ave., Oriole Pool is one of two park facilities in Morton Grove with kiddie pools, diving boards and lap lanes. It is also one of the few local outdoor pools with a 50-meter lap lane.
The park district extensively renovated the facility in 1999, installing a pool liner, wading pool, gutter system, concrete deck, pool slides, overhead lights and a plumbing and filtration system.
The pool’s vinyl covering, however, is now three years past the average lifespan of a liner. The pool loses approximately 6,500 gallons of water a day, Grodsky said.
The park district also says the pool’s main building doesn’t comply with current Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines and fire safety standards. They also have minor plumbing and electrical issues, necessitating new locker and mechanical rooms.
The plumbing and filtration systems do work, though not as efficiently as they could, she said.
Over the past three summers, the park district spent nearly $89,000 on repair work, water, chemicals, and other improvements at Oriole Pool, spokeswoman Sue Braubach said.
According to Grodsky, both the pool and bathhouse are functionally obsolete. He said the average life expectancy of an outdoor pool is 30 to 35 years; Oriole is over 40.
Morton Grove Park District President Betty Fergus said the park board of commissioners has closely monitored and discussed the future of its outdoor pools for at least the past two years, and felt the timing was right to revamp the popular Oriole facility.
“We’re definitely looking at a new structure and different amenities,” she said.
The park district is seeking proposals from architects through Friday. Grodsky anticipates making a recommendation to the board in early February.
New features under consideration are splash tubes and a children’s area. The 450-person capacity limit could be increased, though it is unlikely given the amount of pool and desk space, Grodsky said.
In addition to being mindful of space limitations, he said the park district would be sensitive to the neighborhood when revamping the pool area.
“You’re not going to have a Walt Disney resort,” he said.
Community members would be able to weigh in on the new facility’s layout during focus group meetings in the spring.
Groundbreaking on the new pool would occur no later than September, the park district said, though demolition may begin as early as this month.
The park district aims to unveil the aquatic facility over Memorial Day weekend in 2014.
“It’s going to be a real tight timeline,” Grodsky acknowledged.
The estimated cost of the pool project is between $5 and $8 million, and would be funded by bonds that would be repaid over 20 years, Grodsky said.
“The impact (on) the taxpayer should be minimal,” he said.
In the meantime, Morton `Grove is extending the hours of operation at Harrer Pool, 6250 Dempster St., and collaborating with neighboring park districts to accommodate patrons while Oriole is closed.
Harrer Pool, constructed in 1962 and first renovated in 1995, is in slightly better shape than the younger Oriole.
“It’s not uncommon that older facilities built in the late’50s and early ’60s have lasted longer,” explained Grodsky, noting that soil conditions have much to do with longevity.
He said Harrer would likely need to be fully replaced, too, sometime in the next three to five years. More should be known in upcoming months, as the park district is awaiting the results of a study examining its facilities and parks. The assessment, which Grodsky expects to receive by the end of April, should help inform a capital improvement plan the park district is currently developing.
Park district officials maintain modernizing public pool facilities improves infrastructure as well as meets patrons’ recreational demands.
Fergus said she has observed a growing interest in aquatic sports — noting several Olympic swimmers are “from our backyard” — and would like to see swimming programs expanded with the new facility at Oriole Park.
“I think this is something really good to be doing right,” she said. “I think the board and park district staff are excited to move forward.”
In 2012 the Morton Grove Park District sold nearly 2,300 individual pool passes.