By Bob Uphues
As the calendar approached Memorial Day, officials over at the Riverside Swim Club weren't sure if they'd be able to safely open the swimming pool to members.
Even though the state of Illinois was moving toward Phase 3 of the governor's Restore Illinois coronavirus response plan, it was no sure thing kids and families would be able to escape the summer heat poolside.
Complicating that predicament was the fact that the swim club was counting on dues from new members to help the private club come up with enough money to ensure it could land a construction loan for a major renovation scheduled to begin in September.
With August in sight, it's all systems go at Riverside Swim Club. Families were welcomed back poolside – under new safety guidelines – on July 6.
Chris Porter, president of the Riverside Swim Club board of directors, said the credit for putting together the protocols for reopening goes to pool manager Tina Duve and pool director Angela Izzo.
"They really had to dig into all of the Illinois Department of Public Health regulations and took the best and brightest ideas they were seeing for other public facilities," said Porter. "They came up with a program to keep our employees safe, and our members."
Prior to opening the pool to families, club officials first opened it to adult lap swimmers on June 22 and modified its swim team program to see what kind of response they receive.
"It was a trial balloon, to see how we could execute adult lap swim and how well the swim team would go," Porter said.
As for the swim team, it's a practice-only program this summer – no competitions. Swimmers and coaches are required to monitor their health and stay away if they display symptoms. Swimmers and coaches must maintain physical distance, parents are not allowed on deck during practice and locker rooms are off limits except for emergency bathroom use.
All people must wear masks as they enter and leave the pool area and no one is allowed to share drinks and equipment.
The introduction of general member use of the pool during regular hours came with special protocols to avoid crowding. At the start of each week, each member can book two time slots (for two hours on weekdays and three hours on weekends). If slots remain open, members can book more.
Each patron is given a deck area with two chairs, and those areas are separated from one another to maintain physical distance. With fewer people coming to the pool, the swim club's staff is also leaner this summer.
"What we want to avoid is a crowd," Porter said. "None of us was comfortable with something that looks like a party."
Entry into the pool area is through what used to be the snack bar, taking locker rooms out of the equation. The food prep area is elsewhere and selections mainly include pre-packaged items.
With about five weeks left until the pool's traditional closing date on Labor Day, the club's leadership and members are looking toward breaking ground on the reimagined pool later this year.
"We're still on track for fall," said Porter.
Swim club representatives appeared before the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission informally in June, where commissioners expressed interest in seeing the club reduce the amount of impervious surface onsite. The club is expected back in front of the commission for a zoning variation hearing in August.
Porter expressed confidence that the swim club would be able respond to those recommendations. The Riverside Village Board has the final say on the swim club's request for any zoning variations needed to move the project forward.
"Nothing from the village has set us off course," Porter said.
The ability to open for at least part of the summer was important in part, because the swim club gained 115 new members who were on board with the pool renovation plan and were attracted by the one-year-only reduced bond to join.
It hasn't hurt that the weather has cooperated all summer. June and July have provided plenty of "pool weather" – dry and hot.
"It's been unbelievable weather," Porter said. "Every week has been amazing."