Summer park, library program numbers grow in Oak Park
Madeleine Ruggiero, 5, peeks through the water at her mom sitting in the shade at Rehm Pool Aug. 25. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2012 3:52PM
OAK PARK — From youth reading programs to concerts in the park, library and park district programs in Oak Park surged this summer.
A combination of factors played a role in program increases. Better marketing efforts, increasing program popularity, more people staying in town and working from home, and rain-free days for park programs all helped create a successful summer
The warm, dry summer worked to the Park District of Oak Park’s advantage, with none of its summer concerts rained out and pool attendance up, Communications Manager Diane Stanke said.
“There was excellent attendance at the pools this summer,” Stanke said. “Revenue was up.”
Early sales of pool passes were down a little from last year, as people seemed to take a wait-and-see attitude, Stanke said. When the summer heated up, the village’s pools became increasingly popular places, with both season passes and daily attendance climbing.
The park district also drew more than 1,000 people to Scoville Park in July for “Summer Picnic in the Park,” celebrating the Park District’s 100th anniversary, Stanke noted.
As for its sports camps, the park district introduced sand volleyball as a sport for girls this summer.
Park District Recreation Supervisor Chris Skidmore said the sand volleyball camp for girls and basketball and football camps for boys were some of the most popular offerings this summer.
“We were up in revenue and attendance for our youth sports camps,” Skidmore said. “I think that has to do with the camps’ increased popularity.”
Tennis camps continue to be popular with both boys and girls. Skidmore noted the park district partners with coaches from area colleges, such as Dominican and Benedictine universities and the University of Illinois at Chicago, to ensure high-level instructors are helping kids enhance their skills.
He added that it didn’t hurt attendance numbers that the Summer Olympics occurred this year.
“When the (Summer) Olympics come around every four years, you can see participation interest increase with a lot of sports,” Skidmore said.
In the libraries, reading events at the Oak Park branches this summer set record numbers.
“More kids, teens and adults completed programs this summer than ever before,” Library Marketing Coordinator Jodi Kolo said, “especially our teens, where a new dynamic model and targeted outreach moved the ‘We did it!’ needle more than 2,000 percent, compared to 2011.”
Summer visits at all of the Oak Park Library locations were most definitely up, Kolo said.
Kolo said the number of items borrowed this summer rose just a bit compared with last summer. That bump continues a six-year trend. In 2011, 1.5 million items were checked out from Oak Park Library facilities, a 36 percent increase over 2006.
“Attendance at and participation in events to date this year has definitely increased, especially at our branch libraries, Maze and Dole, where hours were recently expanded,” Kolo said.
The library’s special events for children and story times are consistently at capacity and kids’ specialty clubs draw large numbers, she said.
Kolo said the recent online “Read Anywhere” program had more than 100 participants. She said a bigger and better program is planned for 2013.