Thanks to some creative thinking, the Itasca Water Park will be able to open its popular wading pool at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The 5,000-square-foot pool, geared for parents with small children, didn't open with the rest of the water park on Memorial Day because staff members needed to replace two drain covers named in a voluntary product safety recall.
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Maryfran Leno, Itasca Park District executive director, said the replacement covers recalled nationwide by Lawson Aquatics are still waiting for government approval and would not arrive for at least two weeks.
The recalled covers were incorrectly rated to handle the flow of water, which could pose an entrapment hazard for swimmers. No injures had been reported.
To speed up opening day, park district staff immediately did research and found two larger drain covers that might do the trick, then immediately made an appointment with an independent engineering firm "to get to the front of the line," Leno said.
The covers arrived Thursday, engineers inspected the site Friday and a letter arrived Monday ensuring the covers are in compliance with Illinois Department of Public Health Codes, Leno said.
The total price tag for the project was about $5,000. The park district also lost about $2,000 in revenue by giving discounts to patrons due to wading pool closures.
"A lot of people were giving us suggestions, like putting a lifeguard on top of the grate and just opening," Leno said. "But there was no way we were going to take any chance of opening that pool until our grates were in compliance. Safety is our number one concern."
The pool opening saves more than just revenue for the park district. It also saves the day for birthday parties and group outings that were booked in advance.
Leno said the wading pool closure would put a damper on such events because it can hold 350 people. The entire water park has a capacity of 1,000.
"It's not your typical wading pool, because it's our interactive pool," she said. The wading pool goes from zero to 18 inches in depth and has several pieces of interactive equipment, including slides, sprays and a raindrop umbrella fountain.
The pool has been very popular since it debuted in 2000. The recalled pool drain covers were installed in 2009.
The new drain covers are larger than the recalled 18-by-18-inch grates and are not flush with the concrete. Leno said staff will make patrons aware of the change in that surface of the pool floor.
She said the current design likely will be used through the summer and the recall replacements probably won't be installed until next swimming season.