Wednesday, June 5, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
The polar vortex that gripped the Chicago metro area at the end of January closed schools, shuttered some businesses and slowed public transit.
Recently, however, village officials learned that the record-setting subzero temperatures claimed another casualty — the nearly 50-year-old pool within the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center, 300 Fred Hampton Way in Maywood.
The pool sustained so much damage that a key entity responsible for helping to maintain and operate the pool thought it wisest to sit the season out and recommended that the village focus on structural repairs.
Village officials, however, have said that they still plan on opening the pool this year, even if that means opening it late and having to operate the facility on their own — something Maywood hasn’t done in years.
Officials with the West Cook YMCA, which Maywood has contracted to manage the pool since 2011, announced last month that the Oak Park-based organization will not be operating the aquatic center this summer due to the pool’s condition.
“Two things happened in the winter of 2018,” said Phillip Jimenez, the West Cook YMCA’s president and CEO, during an interview on May 13.
“The long rainy season, coupled with that very cold weather we got for 48 to 72 hours caused spider cracks to form in the pool’s cement foundation,” Jimenez said. “With the polar vortex, the pool started to just pop.”
Jimenez said that roughly 19 to 20 holes — ranging from the size of a cell phone to the size of a book bag — formed in the pool’s concrete base. There was also damage along the pool’s walls, he said.
Jimenez said that, with the pool scheduled to open in early June, his team of lifeguards and other personnel required to operate the pool would not have enough time to train and prepare ahead of the start of the season.
Jimenez said that he recommended the village spend this season investing in comprehensive repairs to the half-century-old outdoor pool in anticipation of the 2020 season.
During a June 4 regular Board of Trustees meeting, Maywood Village Manager Willie Norfleet, Jr. said that while the “pool is in disrepair currently,” the village is working to fix the concrete at the pool’s base and to “move electricity out of the lower level storage area that floods,” in addition to making some other capital improvements.
Norfleet said that “in all likelihood, there is still the intention of having the pool open perhaps in mid-July, with lifeguards and maybe restricted hours.”
Since 2017, the West Cook YMCA has partnered with Proviso Township High Schools District 209, Proviso Partners for Health and other entities to provide lifeguard training to area young people, many who have went on to work summers at Fred Hampton.
This summer, Jimenez said, all of those young people who would have been employed at the Maywood pool have been reassigned.
Jimenez said that the YMCA will allocate $10,000 in scholarships to its summer camp and provide 50 enrollment spots exclusively to Maywood residents for its free Safety Around Water lessons.
In a letter sent to village officials on May 10, Jimenez wrote that the West Cook YMCA “deeply appreciates and values the continued partnership” with the village.
He said that over five seasons, the partnership between the YMCA and the village has generated more than $19,000 in contributions to offset costs to Maywood. The village and the West Cook YMCA each contributed $60,000 in 2018 toward operating and maintaining the pool.
Jimenez added that over the course of five seasons, more than 720 residents took Safety Around Water classes and pool attendance increased ten-fold, from 900 to 9,000.
The last time the Fred Hampton Aquatic Center’s season was threatened was in 2012, when the pool closed for repairs. VFP
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