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Pool attendance is nothing splashy

Overall phoCentral Pool 9400 S. KentOak Lawn Aug. 29. The pool closed Sept. 2.  |  Howard Ludwig~For Sun-Times

Overall photo of Central Pool, 9400 S. Kenton, Oak Lawn, on Aug. 29. The pool closed on Sept. 2. | Howard Ludwig~For Sun-Times Media

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A late-summer heat wave arrived too late to improve attendance at both Central Pool and Centennial Aquatic Center in Oak Lawn.

The cool start to the summer resulted in “sporadic” crowds, said Mary Crout, safety and aquatics coordinator for the Oak Lawn Park District.

“There were many days we did close because of low attendance,” Crout said

June is typically the month when residents buy seasonal memberships for the two community pools. A pool pass for Oak Lawn residents is $155 for a two-person household. It’s $25 more for each additional family member, she said.

Official figures had yet to be compiled as of early September, but Crout estimated that sales were down at least 25 percent in June, as below-average temperatures made a trip to the pool an afterthought.

Temperatures hit 90 degrees several times at the end of August. Unfortunately for the park district and swimmers, Oak Lawn closes its pools on Labor Day.

Debbie Corrie, of Oak Lawn, visited Central Pool in the waning days of summer. This was only her third trip to the pool this year. She blamed the cool weather for her infrequent attendance. Looking back, she said not buying an annual pool pass was a shrewd decision.

“It’s disappointing that even this week they couldn’t keep it open a bit more,” Corrie said.

Despite the late-arriving heat wave, the pool was scheduled to shut down on Labor Day as planned. The lifeguards, concession stand workers and other pool employees are all students. Their return to school makes staffing the pool difficult, Crout said.

Jan O’Rourke, of Oak Lawn, has bought an annual membership to Oak Lawn’s park district pools for the past four years. She said this year she’d have been better off to pay per visit. She worried about the future of the public pool, as many governments look to cut back.

“This is a really nice pool, but I sort of fear that they might not want to keep it open,” O’Rourke said.

Crout said the park district was able to make up some of the loss by expanding its swimming lessons. This was the first year that both pools offered these popular programs, and they quickly reached capacity.

While some swimmers stayed away, Valerie Ferrara, of Evergreen Park, was a frequent swimmer at Oak Lawn’s public pools. She and her 4-year-old daughter, Isabella Ferrara-Justo, visited the pool about 25 times this summer.

“I think next year, I’ll get a membership,” Ferrara said.

Cindy Cole, of Worth, took her three grandchildren to the pool recently. Haley, 9; Abby, 7; and Nathan, 6; chased each other through the kiddie pool under grandma’s watchful eye.

Cole was disappointed by the cool start to the summer. The August heat wave seemed to offer little consolation.

“Now it’s the nicest it’s been all year at the end of summer,” she said.

Howard A. Ludwig can be reached at howardaludwig@yahoo.com.



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