GIBSON CITY — Gibson City officials plan to replace the city’s outdoor public swimming pool next year with a new outdoor pool featuring more amenities.
City council members Monday night approved spending $10,000 for Champaign-based Fehr Graham to complete a preliminary feasibility study for the proposed pool. Fehr Graham staff engineer Andy Kieser said the feasibility study would explore whether the pool can be built in an area just east of the existing swimming pool, which was built in 1921.
Last Thursday night, the committee formed to explore options for a new pool met at City Hall and unanimously recommended the city council proceed with designing the new outdoor pool.
Plans call for the new pool to feature a lap area, diving area and walk-in area. It would also feature heated water, which would allow for the pool to open in May and close in September for a five-month operating schedule instead of the current three-month period.
Alderman Susie Tongate said the committee visited several pools to gather ideas for the new pool’s proposed design. Committee members took trips to indoor facilities in Pontiac, Flanagan and Champaign, as well as the outdoor pool at Lincolnshire Fields Country Club in Champaign.
Tongate said the committee considered both indoor and outdoor options before deciding on an outdoor one. Tongate said operating costs would have been substantial with an indoor pool, particularly with staffing.
Committee member Jan Hall also said humidity was a big factor in deciding against an indoor pool. Hall said Flanagan’s indoor pool had heavy humidity, “and it was obvious when we were there.”
Committee member and pool board member Paul Phillips said local business leaders he spoke with favored an outdoor pool. Phillips added that an indoor pool would be too large for a community the size of Gibson City.
“It’s a bigger bite than Gibson should take at this moment,” Phillips said. “Unless our town grows drastically, I just don’t know that we have the population to sustain that big of a project.”
The proposed new pool design is an exact copy of the outdoor pool at Lincolnshire Fields. Committee members said they enjoyed the design, and Gibson City pool manager Randy Ferguson said he was sold on it right away.
The Lincolnshire Fields pool is a 3,200-foot pool which Ferguson said is similar to the size of the existing Gibson City pool. The single-space pool consists of a six-lap main pool area, with a diving pool and zero-entry space on both ends. Those two smaller pools will account for the current baby pool and diving pool, which Kieser said are “an accident waiting to happen” because of disintegrating concrete.
Having heated water will not mean the new pool will be a big hot tub. Rather, water would be temperature-controlled to a certain degree, meaning the water would stay the same temperature even if air temperatures drop.
“Some kids have been scared to step into the pool right now because the water is so cold,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said Thursday night that the pool could be built to the east of where the current pool sits. Construction could begin in late summer or fall 2020 while the old pool is still open. A bathhouse and concession area would then be built to the west or another area of the pool, and then be open in 2021. A possibility is that the concession area could be open for youth baseball games or events in the nearby North Park, not just the pool.
As for the longer operating season, Mayor Dan Dickey said May and September would be unsupervised swim time for adults only, although a staff member or city employee would be present during all operating hours.
“All of the pools we talked to had ‘swim at your own risk,’” Dickey said. “Anyone 16 and under has to have an adult with them.”
Tongate said Monday that signs will be posted, and unsupervised time would be when most kids are in school anyway.
Dickey said geothermal heating would be a good thing to consider, and Kieser said solar panels could be used. Kieser also said that if Gibson City does eventually want an indoor pool, concrete spacing could allow for an indoor pool to be built around the new outdoor one if the city wants it to be included in the design.
Kieser said Lincolnshire Fields’ pool has a diamond bright coating, meaning it does not need to be painted. Kieser added that the pool “hasn’t been touched” since it was built in 2012.
For cleaning purposes, Kieser said Lincolnshire Fields has a robot which rides along the bottom of the pool, and debris is brought to the filters where it is then swept away.
Hall said a bigger project was simply out of the picture.
“For those of you who want indoor, you weren’t there when we toured the pools,” Hall explained. “You didn’t hear the stories coming out of the people who were running those pools, saying, ‘We’ve spent thousands of dollars, but our engineers are still working on it.’ That kind of made us back off.”
Once the feasibility study is complete, the city will then proceed with funding the project and then finalize a timeline for construction.