Hot temps drive swimmers to Lake Bluff
Despite cooler weather, kids had a good time at the Lake Bluff Park District Pool in mid-August. Christopher Neill, 10, of Lake Forest, performed a forward flip off the low diving board. | Rob Dicker~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 14, 2012 7:56AM
LAKE BLUFF — Record hot temperatures and little rain this summer drew more swimmers to the Blair Park Pool, giving park officials reason to smile.
For the first time since the popular but leaky tot pool was closed in 2010, attendance was up. Daily attendance, the combination of daily fee payers plus pass holders, increased to 16,039 in 2012, a 7 percent increase over the 14,926 in 2011.
The final figures for the 2012 season, which extended from June 2 through Labor Day, come as a hopeful sign for park officials who have seen only declines since the tot pool closed. Attendance dropped 8 percent — from 20,891 in 2009 to 19,219 in 2010 — the first year without the tot wading pool, and another 22 percent in 2011.
“We’re pleased with the results, considering the loss of the tot pool,” said Director of Facilities and Recreation Services Dave Peterson. “The tot pool has had a big impact on our attendance as well as membership.”
The tot wading pool, built in 1991, did not comply with the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act and was losing up to 200 gallons of water per hour, which was unrelated to the suction drain replacement. With the estimated cost to demolish and reconstruct the tot pool over $500,000 in 2009, the Lake Bluff Park Board closed it and filled it with sand to create an additional play area.
Despite this year’s bump in daily attendance, the 2012 figure was 43 percent below a seven-year high of 28,330 set in 2007 and 29 percent below an 11-year attendance average of 22,603.
Total memberships numbered 389 in 2012, steady with the 391 sold in 2011 and an almost 4 percent increase over the 377 memberships sold in 2010.
Though a bright spot, memberships remain well off the 500 level where pool pass sales hovered from 2006 to 2008.
“I don’t think we’ll ever get back up to those days when we had the tot pool,” Peterson said.
Weather played a large part in this year’s draw, with no full-day closings in June and July and only one in August.
Executive Director Ron Salski said he’s pleased with 2012 attendance levels “especially with the discussions in the past few years regarding the potential closing of the pool.”
Salski anticipates the main pool, built in 1973, will open again for the 2013 season “barring any major expense, but we don’t foresee any at this point,” he said. The tot pool, however, will remain closed.