METROPOLIS — For more than half a century, the youth of Metropolis have flocked to the city pool as school lets out and the temperatures rise.
It's one of the best things going for youth in Metropolis in the summer, said Mayor Billy McDaniel.
“If it were not for that swimming pool being open through the week, many, many low-income families would not have anything for their children to do all summer long,” he said.
But the city pool, which opened in 1964, is in need of extensive renovation work, which the city will finally be able to undertake thanks to a grant that Gov. JB Pritzker announced this week.
The city received $231,000 to sandblast and resurface the pool, and to construct a Superman-themed splash pad at Franklin Park. The city is required to match the grant funding.
“It needs this so badly, and I’m just thrilled,” said Pris Abell, the city’s director of Parks and Recreation.
The funding for Metropolis was among $28.9 million in grants the governor announced on Tuesday to help 89 communities across the state acquire open space or develop and improve recreational facilities. The funding comes from the state’s Open Space Land Acquisition and Development Program, which receives dedicated funding from a percentage of the state’s real estate transfer tax.
In a news release, Pritzker said these park improvement projects will make it easier for families to enjoy the state’s beauty and also “create jobs, providing a boost to local economic development efforts.”
Abell said Metropolis plans to get started with its pool renovation and splash pad as soon as the weather allows this spring. The pool opens the first weekend after school lets out, and she plans to have it ready in time to welcome children to another swim season. The pool is a popular venue in Massac County that draws families from across the broader region.
“We keep a tally of how many people run through the gates each day. It comes to over 10,000 in a three month period. We draw people from all over,” Abell said. “We get families from Vienna and Harrisburg, Pope County, Paducah.”
Part of the draw, she said, is it only costs $1.25 per person to enter (and kids 5 and under can swim for free). The city has purposefully maintained that low cost because many families could not otherwise afford repeat visits for their children throughout the summer if it was more expensive, she said.
Any child who visits the pool during the summer can also get a free meal, courtesy of a donations-based program overseen by the Metropolis Police Department. During the school year, children from low-income families can eat free at school, but during the summer months, options are limited, Abell said. Any child, regardless of need, is welcome to the daily menu of hot dogs, chips, fruit and a drink.
“We really consider it a real service in the summer to the area, especially the youth,” she said. “They need this.”
Southern Five Regional Planning District and Development Commission assisted the city of Metropolis in writing the grant.
The city of Vienna also received $360,000 for improvements to the Vienna City Park.