A Pool with a Past

Roosevelt Aquatics Complex in Glenview, Ill.

By Emily Tipping

hile many towns and cities across the country have dedicated dollars to construct brand-new aquatics complexes featuring all of the latest trends in water fun, others have focused on preserving the past, while moving ahead into the 21st century. At its Roosevelt Pool, the Village of Glenview, a town of nearly 45,000, had a beautifully designed piece of history to preserve, and an interest in moving its aquatics facilities forward to meet the needs of the next generation.

This is exactly what it did when it renovated Roosevelt Pool, which was built by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) more than a half-century ago.

Established in 1935, the WPA was a New Deal agency that employed millions and affected towns across the nation. Most of the work done by the agency involved public facilities and infrastructure—highways, streets, bridges, public buildings, parks and park structures, recreational fields—some of which is still in use today.

In Glenview, Ill., the Roosevelt Pool was one such work. Completed in 1940 by the WPA and subsequently altered during the 1950s, the park's saucer-shaped pool held more than a half-million gallons of water. The pool is a cherished location for thousands of people who learned to swim at the facility. Over 50,000 kids in the community learned to swim there.

But by the end of the 20th century, that long backlog of history was beginning to take its toll. The pool's concrete deck was cracked, the facility was not in compliance with newer codes, and the filter and mechanical systems were inefficient. All of this served to reveal just how long the pool had been in use, and the village and park district administrators knew it was time to update the facility.

Williams Architects, a Carol Stream, Illinois-based architectural firm, was brought on board to handle the project. One critical requirement of their design approach was to retain the facility's heritage, while allowing it to swim smoothly into the 21st century. The $6.5 million project, completed in June 2005, involved major renovations to the historic facility, as well as additions to the existing bathhouse structure.

The pool's original bathhouse is a beautiful stone building with a fireplace and open-beamed ceiling. It was kept as part of the renovation, but received some upgrades, including a 680-square-foot addition. The remodel also incorporated new family-style changing rooms, which are becoming more popular at family-oriented facilities nationwide.

The renovation of the bathhouse also addressed compliance issues associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Because the existing bathhouse was located eight feet above the pool deck, two new curved ramps were added, which fit nicely into the landscape and imitate the circular shape of the pool.

Far more than just a swimming complex, the 11.5-acre Roosevelt Park includes four ballfields, a basketball court, three tennis courts, a play lot and two football fields. There are also rooms available for the public to rent. Because the facilities are used beyond the swimming season, the new aquatic complex had to be designed to allow for more than seasonal pool admissions. To allow activities to take place in the general purpose room once swim season is over, the design team produced a portable admission facility whose design is compatible with the bathhouse.

In addition, an all-new, 1,500-square-foot concession building was added to the site. Designed to complement the design of the original bathhouse, this structure includes acid-stained stone among its materials. The design team also included an enlarged photographic image of the original pool, offering a visual reminder of the pool's history.

New choices were added to the concession menu as well. In addition to the traditional burgers and hot dogs, patrons can get veggie burgers, fish and chicken sandwiches and many other tasty snacks.The concession building also houses the pool's filter.

Also reflecting the design of the original pool, the project planners incorporated a center island with drop slides and diving platform. Animal statues from the old pool now decorate the facility's grounds.

When the pool opened, Park Board President Doug Kaiser praised the pool's design team for their careful retention of the original pool's charm. But it was important to design the facility to meet the needs of today's swimmers. With more families visiting aquatics centers, there is less demand for lap-swimming accommodations, and more demand for things like splash play areas and water slides. The design team took this into account, and while the new complex includes an area for lap swimming, it also has built in more fun for families.

The complex can now accommodate 1,500 bathers and features two pools, with an interactive "island" in the middle. The 13,000-square-foot, zero-depth-entry activity pool includes interactive spray-play features. The smaller 3,000-square-foot lap pool features five 25-yard lanes for lap swimming and other activities. A 1,000-square-foot diving pool welcomes swimmers sliding down the two deep-water drop slides and diving from the three-meter diving platform, which are part of the interactive feature island. The island also features LED lighting, brightening up this central element of the facility when darkness falls.

For pool visitors who want to enjoy the facility from the water's edge, there is now a raised terrace with shade elements to protect patrons from the sun's UV rays.

The renovated pool was recognized with a 2005 Illinois Park & Recreation Association Outstanding Facility and Park Award.

With its nod to history and a look ahead to the needs of the next generation, the new Roosevelt Aquatics Complex is sure to satisfy as many generations of swimmers as its first incarnation.


Glenview Park District:

Williams Architects:

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