A Jumping Off Point

After six-plus long, hot summers with no pool, Roselle Park District residents in suburban Chicago are happily diving into fun at the new Kemmerling Park Pool.

The $5.1 million project--designed by PHN Architects of Wheaton, Ill.--represents a big step forward in terms of recreational amenities for residents. It includes not only the essentially new and modern aquatic facility, but also renovations and additions to Kemmerling Park itself. The former pool, which opened in 1970, was the traditional concrete pool of decades ago, with few amenities. It was closed during summer 2001 after the concrete failed and the pool began losing “gallons and gallons of water,” says Tom Kruse, district director of parks and recreation during the planning and construction phases of the project.

“It had just worn out,” says Doug Holzrichter, principal of PHN Architects.“When we first looked at the pool, there were ducks floating on the little bit of water left,” Holzrichter recalls. “That pool was enjoyable only to ducks.”

Pre-Pool Hardships

The district’s own swim team--more than 100 members strong--was forced to practice in rented space in a nearby town. Now, residents are enjoying the new amenities and officials are enjoying the splash the new pool is making.

“This pool is long overdue,” says Interim Director Heidi Lapin. “Our community had waited such a long time, so the reaction to the new pool has been very gratifying from the staff perspective.”

The road to the new facility was long. District voters turned down multiple requests for a tax increase to build a pool before approving a $1.8 million referendum in 2006.

Suitable For Everyone

The new aquatic complex is intended for residents’ use, and not as a regional draw, Holzrichter says.

“Residents didn’t want the lazy river or big water slides,” Lapin notes. “They wanted a community pool, and that’s what we have given them.”

It includes three major components, with much to attract swimmers of all ages:

1. An eight-lane competition pool provides a home facility for the swim team. The removable volleyball net provides additional fun under the sun.

2. Attached to the lap pool is the family-friendly leisure pool with zero-depth beach entry, toddler slide and both in-pool and on-deck play and spray features. The bubble bench and current channel offer bathers a nice change of pace.

3. A separate 12-foot dive pool provides deep-water thrills and chills, with a drop slide, a 1-meter diving board and 3-meter diving platform. PHN added one of its signature elements--deep-water stairs--along one entire side of the diving well. The stairs make it simple to enter and exit the diving well, and also create seating for deep-water classes or for swim team members.

“We get a lot of comments on how nice they are,” Lapin says. “It’s so much easier to get out of the water; people don’t have to climb a ladder or hoist themselves over the side.”

The project involved more than simply designing aquatic facilities. Roselle opted to renovate and expand the existing bathhouse instead of building a new one to demonstrate the district’s emphasis on being environmentally sensitive. A lifeguard/manager’s office, modern family changing room and full-serve concession area were added.

“The manager’s office is glass on three sides, which means lifeguards have really good sightlines and supervision capabilities from the office as well as from the deck,” Kruse says.

Shade structures, turf and eating areas also were added.

These days, each element of the new pool has its fans, and each receives a daily workout. The diving well is a big attraction. “There’s always a line. And our residents were very excited about having a high-dive because so many pools don’t,” Lapin says.

The current channel is also extremely popular.

"Our swim team is huge and it’s very excited to be back home,” added Lapin. And the icing on the cake? Roselle showed off its new pool by hosting its conference meet, and won.

Planning For Poolside Play

Kemmerling Park is “smack dab in the middle of a residential area,” as Lapin puts it, so being a good neighbor is important.With parking and congestion as major concerns, PHN and Roselle officials worked to minimize the impact on the neighborhood. The park district partnered with Roselle School District 12 to permit pool and park patrons to use parking spaces in the nearby middle-school parking lot. In exchange, the park district helped the school district pay to repave the lot.

The park district self-regulates capacity of both parking and the pool by permitting no more than 600 bathers to use the pool, which has a state-approved capacity of 730.

Residents also were asked to participate in the pool/park project by purchasing 6-inch-square ceramic tiles, which now line a wall in the pool office.

To generate enthusiasm as opening day approached, officials auctioned off a number of “firsts” for the pool--the first pass, first person in the pool, first to dive off the boards, even the first--and only--person to possess the original Kemmerling Park sign.

"It was a fun way to raise interest and increase the excitement for the pool,” Kruse recalls, and notes that the auction raised approximately $1,500.On opening day, the past and the future merged nicely into the present--Don Kemmerling, the park board’s first president for whom Kemmerling Park is named, flew in from Florida with his family.

A Step Further

Portions of Kemmerling Park also have been transformed. The baseball field has been upgraded. The district added playground equipment and a running/walking/biking path through the park’s perimeter.

A new active-adult area includes two trellis structures with swinging benches, concrete chess tables, a bocce ball court and a horseshoe pit. Patrons check out equipment for these amenities from the pool deck.

With a service window outside the pool fencing, park visitors can even pick up tasty treats at the pool concession area. The creative design means full utilization of a popular park, officials say. “Kemmerling Park is about 10 acres, and we’re using pretty much every square foot of it,” Kruse says.

Beth Bales is a writer associated with PHN Architects, an award-winning architectural firm that specializes in the design of recreational facilities, including aquatic centers, recreational centers and golf course clubhouses. Her story, “Off-Season Greens,” on ways to increase revenues at park- and forest preserve district-owned golf course facilities during the off-season, received Illinois Parks & Recreation’s award for “Best Facilities Management Article” for 2003. She lives in Geneva, Ill., a western Chicago suburb, and may be reached at (630) 232-7912.