Alumni lead fundraising for Central pool
Former swimmers hope residents will help fund larger pool, capitalize on $750,000 match
Last updated 10/16/2019 at 11:51pm | View PDF
A group of alumni is working to raise $1.6 million to contribute toward construction of a new a 10-lane pool at Hinsdale Central.
To jump start the effort, one group has pledged to match the first $750,000 raised.
“We’re fortunate we’ve got several alumni that have been very successful that are very adamant and have committed large dollars if we can match it,” fundraising committee member and former Central swimmer Paul Sigfusson said.
That leaves a balance of $850,000 to reach the group’s goal.
“It is daunting, but so many people are stepping up and so many people are asking questions,” said committee member Carol Bobo, who swam at Central and coached there for 23 years.
The committee hopes to name the pool The Don Watson Aquatic Center after the man who coached boys swimming at Central from 1965-78 and led 12 consecutive teams to state titles. He also developed 167 high school All-Americans and four Olympic swimmers. Watson passed away in November 2017 at age 87.
The committee has outlined a list of sponsorships for interested donors, from $250,000 for the scoreboard to $500 for a donor brick in the entryway. But donations of any size are welcome, Bobo said.
“Every little bit helps,” she said. “It’s a collective way to not just recognize somebody who did put swimming on the map, but most importantly to recognize how much these communities care about leaving a legacy.”
The $1.6 million the group hopes to raise is the difference in cost between an eight-lane pool and a 10-lane pool. The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board approved the 10-lane pool last month, which will cost $3.5 million more than the six-lane pool planned for in the $139 million referendum voters approved in April. Several board members said last month they will reverse their decision if more detailed drawings result in a higher cost.
The fundraising effort has not changed the district’s approach.
“While we greatly appreciate the efforts the Don Watson Aquatic Center Committee and Hinsdale Central Foundation are undertaking to help raise money for Central’s pool project, we have and will continue to discuss and explore savings and efficiencies that we can achieve on this and all of our Future Ready Facilities projects through the planning, design and construction phases of our work,” said Chris Jasculca, district communications director. “This includes trying to reduce costs through activities such as value engineering.”
Bobo and Sigfusson said people have been receptive to their requests for donations.
“We’ve got a bunch of people working on this. We’ve made some pretty good inroads,” Sigfusson said, admitting that it might be difficult to hit the goal by Nov. 14, when the committee will update the board on its efforts.
“I have a lot of commitments from a lot of people, a number of people pondering it,” he said.
He stressed that the 10-lane pool the district plans to build is not state-of-the-art but a necessary upgrade to meet the needs of Central students during the school day and after school. Sigfusson cited the larger facilities of Central’s competitors such as Downers Grove North and South, York, Libertyville and Lake Forest high schools.
“They all have 50-meter pools,” he said.
While Central is known for its top-performing swim teams, Bobo said the larger pool is needed during the school day for swimming lessons, lifesaving classes and adaptive physical education.
“You can’t just focus on the team aspect,” she said. “The number one thing is to focus on the daily use.”
A larger pool also would mean more opportunities for community members to use it.
“Obviously we can go back to providing a learn-to-swim program on the weekend or maybe one night a week do lessons for kids, lessons for adults, open swims,” she said. “The opportunity is there for us to make this more community-based.”
Donors can make checks payable to the Hinsdale Central Foundation and mail them to the foundation at P.O. Box 296, Clarendon Hills, IL 60514 or use Venmo with @HCHS-Foundation as the donation address. In the event the pool is not built, all funds will be returned to donors.
“Somebody provided this for me,” Bobo said. “I tried to provide for my children. Now I’m continuing to provide for the kids that are coming up and the kids after them.”