By Kelly Youngblood
After last year’s pool season left us dry, we are so ready to dive into a summer of fun!
Champaign-Urbana aquatic directors are deep into planning how things will flow this summer under current Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines. But they also know those guidelines could — and likely will — get an overhaul at some point during the swim season.
As of now, local public pools are moving forward under Phase 4 guidelines, which were first announced in June of 2020. Phase 4 guidelines focus mainly on capacity limits, face masks and sanitation procedures.
Even with an atypical pool protocol in place, patrons can still expect to swim, splash and have a blast this summer.
With maximum capacity limits at 50 percent, both Crystal Lake Park Family Aquatic Center in Urbana and Sholem Aquatic Center in Champaign will offer online reservations.
At Crystal Lake Pool, reservations will be on a first-come, first-served basis; however, walk-ins will be allowed as long as openings are available.
Leslie Radice, aquatics manager at Urbana Park District, says overall she doesn’t anticipate it being difficult for people to get a reservation at the pool.
“There will be limited spots, but we will be trying to adjust as much as possible as we go,” she said. “If the limitations are loosened, we will adjust to those new guidelines. There will also be less camps at our facility this summer, so that will open up other availability in patronage.”
Radice added, “The only time I foresee this being difficult is on those really hot days that everyone wants to come in and cool off. Hopefully as the summer goes on, we will be able to adjust and allow more patrons in.”
Crystal Lake Park will increase its pool hours from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Between each reservation, the pool will be closed for 30 minutes to clean the facility for the next round of patrons.
Per IDPH guidelines, patrons must wear face masks at all times, except in the water. Social distancing will also be enforced.
Even with the new pool rules, Radice said one thing will remain the same and that’s the amount of fun individuals and families will have at the pool this summer.
“You can expect the same level of safety and professionalism from staff as always,” she said.“Water slides, wet deck, treehouse playground, diving boards, climbing wall, streambed and sand play will all be open and ready for patrons.”
Brittany Fairfield, Director of Sholem Aquatic Center, says even though the planning process for opening the pool and training staff has been a challenge, she is ready to give people some semblance of normalcy this summer.
“I don’t care what it takes, we’re going to open the pool and we’re going to enjoy every second of it,” she said.
Sholem Aquatic Center will also require online reservations and face masks, and follow a scheduled sanitation routine.
Sholem patrons will be required to sign up for a two-hour time slot through an online reservation system. Individuals can only sign up for one slot at a time but may come back if there’s an opening.
Face masks will be required in all areas of the facility except in the concessions section and in the water. Pods of lounge chairs will be separated by six feet and 50 tubes will be used at a time at the lazy river and sanitized after each use. The facility will close every two hours for 30 minutes of deep cleaning before the next group arrives. Hours will be noon-7 p.m. daily.
Regardless of the modifications, Fairfield is ready to make this summer a splashing success.
“We’ve been planning and prepping and imagining what 2021 is going to bring and how amazing it’s going to be,” Fairfield said. “I cannot wait to see people swimming, I cannot wait to get my guards up, I cannot wait to welcome the community back in the pool and give them that normalcy they’ve been craving.”
The Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center in Rantoul was one of the few pools that opened late in the season last year under Phase 4 guidelines. As they prepare to open again under the same guidelines, pool director Todd Brooks feels confident they will enjoy another busy season.
Similar to last year, Brooks says visitors can purchase a daily pass or a season pass — online reservations will not be required. Masks will be required if visitors cannot maintain a three-foot social distance and concessions will be open again as well.