As Andrew Godbold grew up on Linden Avenue, across the street from the varsity field at Oak Park and River Forest High School, the crack of a bat against a baseball was the first thing he heard each summer morning, his mother Lisa Thornton said.
Eventually, Andrew, now 22, became one of the players to crack his bat against a ball, and he did it well enough to be drafted in June to the L.A. Dodgers.
“It was due in no small part to Oak Park and River Forest High School,” Thornton told the OPRF District 200 school board Tuesday.
She was one of about 20 parents, staff and nearby residents who testified at a hearing Aug. 19 expected to help board members decide which of three sites they should select to build a new 50,000-square-f
The board is expected to vote on a pool facility site at its next meeting, 7:30 p.m. Aug. 28.
“I value the role of athletics in my son’s life. It kept him on the straight and narrow,” Thornton said. “My son’s life would have been dramatically different had they closed the field for two years.”
Over the past two years, the Long-Term Facilities Committee’s pool subcommittee has considered a variety of sites and configurations to replace the school’s 80-year-old pool. A third site under consideration is at the west end of the track on the south side of Lake Street.
The subcommittee recommended placing a long, narrow facility across the site of the current baseball field. But members of various communities expressed concern about its effect on other sports, green space and the surrounding neighborhood.
For instance, placing the facility on the baseball field would mean tighter quarters for the varsity and softball fields, and the construction could displace all the programs for up to two years.
Oak Park resident Lou Lombardo, representing the Chicago Edge soccer club, said his is one of the programs that could be hurt if the facility is placed on the baseball field.
“We’re already hurting for field space, and we’re sending kids to other communities and paying for field space,” he said.
Connie Coleman, who lives near the school on Scoville Avenue, said she’d watched the school acquire green space in the area, including the transformation of a used car dealership into an athletic field, during her 42 years in Oak Park.
“I share the concerns of those who don’t want to lose any open space, simply because we’ve added open space over the years, and I’d hate to see that lost,” she said.
Coleman, a grandmother of four with a granddaughter in the school’s synchronized swimming program, also expressed disappointment that the school and the Park District of Oak Park could not come to an agreement on open swim for the public.
“There are many like me in the community who long for a year-round pool that would be open to them,” she said. “Lack of interest in swimming has a direct result on the pools that we do have.”
But several residents simply supported a new facility and did not express a site preference.
Oak Park resident Tom Gill, a father of two daughters, including a freshman at OPRF, remarked that the pool opened about the time his grandmother graduated from the high school in 1927.
“If she were alive, she would be very surprised to see her great-granddaughter swimming in that pool in the same facility,” he said.