BLOOMINGTON — For years, Julie Donahue's family has spent summers at O'Neil Pool.
This year, she was afraid it would not open.
"I think it would be detrimental to the west side to not have a pool, because what are these kids going to do?" asked Donahue. "You've got to give them something to do in order to keep them off the streets and be happy. It's summer. It's the cheapest thing to do, and it's fun."
Jay Tetzloff, the city's director of parks, recreation and cultural arts, agreed.
"We feel very strongly that the neighborhood needs to have a pool," he said.
But the 45-year-old pool is well beyond its 25-year lifespan. The baby pool at the park, 1515 W. Chestnut St., closed three years ago.
City officials have not decided on how to replace the pool and pay for it. The parks department is proposing a $10 million rejuvenation of the entire park, including replacing the pool with an aquatic center similar to the two in Normal.
During budget discussions in February 2018, a majority of the nine City Council members expressed support for exploring whether to replace the pool with one that was similar in size and covered so it could be used all year, but not developing an aquatic center.
The Illinois Department of Public Health inspected the pool last August and provided a list of "substantial work" that had to be completed before the pool could open. But the repairs cost far less than anticipated, Tetzloff said.
"The cost that we would have to spend to open this year, we thought, would be between $50,000 to $100,000," said Tetzloff. "We were closer to $10,000 this year. Because the state kind of showed some leniency, we were able to repair lesser things in lesser amounts.
"We did have to replace the diving boards. We've just done some temporary stuff to get us through this season," he added.
As for the future, "We'll have to see where we are with a new aquatic center and funding for that," said Tetzloff. "We'll do what we can and what we need to do to open it for 2020, if that is the guidance that we're given.
"They (the state) gave us a list of what we had to fix for this year. They will do the same thing for next year," he added. "The cost to make those repairs to open the pool next year could be closer to $100,000, but we won't know that until we get the list of mandated repairs from the state."
Donahue and Robbin Fannin said they like the neighborhood feel of O'Neil Pool.
"All of my kids swam here. My oldest one will be 41 years old," said Donahue. "Their friends swam here too, now their kids come here as well."
Fannin used to bring her children to the pool. They are now in their 30s, so she brings her grandchildren to the pool.
Donahue continues to come to the pool every summer so she can visit with "lifelong friends you met here." Not much has changed since their kids swam there, both women said.
"It was real friendly. It was a big family. Everybody watched out for other people's kids," said Fannin. "All the lifeguards were real friendly, and the kids knew them all. And the kids had fun."
If O'Neil Pool isn't replaced, Fannin and Donahue worry how west-side children will be able to get to the city's other swimming pool, Holiday, in southeast Bloomington.
"And if they did, Holiday would be so crowded," added Donahue.
Fannin hopes a new pool won't be too big or too expensive. "This is something that you can afford to do. A swim pass is $29 for the season," she said. "That's a cheap summer.
"But I'd like to see a few more items here. Maybe a lazy river would be nice. Other than that, maybe just have a regular pool and maybe one bigger slide."