Efforts to bring a public pool back to Waterloo are continuing, with the organization leading that charge aiming to have a bond referendum on the ballot in 2021.
“It’s more of a targeted audience,” Waterloo Citizens for a Pool president Kim Ahne said. “If you go in a general (election) there’s going to be a lot more people just going out to vote for the big stuff. So, if you go during something that’s more local, they’re coming out for a purpose.”
WCP has been pursuing a new public pool since late 2016 – about four years after the Sondag City Pool closed to the public.
The nonprofit has proposed spending $2.7 million on a new aquatic facility.
The group projected $1.5 million of that would be paid for through donations, while $1.2 million would come from bonds issued by the Waterloo Park District and repaid through tax dollars.
“This is not going to get done with individual endeavors,” Ahne said. “This is going to take a community. It’s going to take some kind of tax referendum to get done.”
“The issue with having a taxing entity backing us is there are so many grants available that can be utilized to build a pool that we don’t have access to,” WCP treasurer Jason Breithaupt added. “It has to be a taxing entity to be able to apply for those grants.”
So far, the group has raised slightly more than $20,000 through fundraising and donations.
It has raised that money primarily through a 5K run and profit-sharing nights with local restaurants.
“We’ve had a lot of support from local businesses,” WCP secretary Amy Grandcolas said. “It’s been amazing how much they’ve supported us.”
Breithaupt said the group is not worried about its fundraising total because it has not yet conducted a capital campaign.
A capital campaign is an intense effort to raise significant money over a specific time period.
“(Community fundraisers are) never going to raise that kind of money,” Breithaupt said. “It’s going to have to come from either a capital campaign or tax referendum.”
For a little less than a year, the group has also been asking people who live in Waterloo or in the 62298 zip code to sign a petition to demonstrate the community’s interest in a pool. So far, it has 421 signatures.
Although it is making progress, plans for the pool are not set in stone.
WCP is flexible on many aspects of the facility, including what it can feature, when it will be open and where it will be located.
That is because the group wants the community’s input on these matters.
With that in mind, Ahne said the $2.7 million figure might be more on the low end.
“You hear ‘pools lose money,’” Breithaupt explained. “A lot of it is if you build a square, people get bored and that can be a problem. If you look at other park districts in the area that are doing well, they have some more splash pads and things like that.”
Ideally, the pool would be located along Rogers Street in or near William Zimmer Memorial Park.
Ahne said that would be optimal partly because the nearby day cares and schools would mean as many as 400 children could be within walking distance of the pool.
He said that could help the pool make money, as those facilities could use the pool for swimming lessons.
“What truly makes money at any aquatic facility is programming,” Ahne noted.
WCP will look to solidify its plans more with the community’s feedback in the coming months.
The group is revising its business plan, a timeline that lays out goals and directives. It is also working with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to have a class of business students conduct a feasibility study.
That project, which normally costs as much as $30,000, would help determine what the community would want in an aquatic facility and what could reasonably be built.
As it works on those documents, the group will also soon begin attempting to get a taxing body to back the project.
It is considering the Waterloo Park District, Waterloo City Council and Monroe County Board of Commissioners.
The group encouraged anyone who would in favor of a pool to contact the appropriate individual in any of those governing bodies to express support.
The members agreed their efforts will be worth it because of the benefits a public pool would have for Waterloo’s youth.
“Having a pool gives kids that sense of community and a chance to see their friends,” Grandcolas said. “And the parents can also socialize and get to see each other.”