Hartke Pool will not welcome swimmers in the summer of 2024, as city officials announced on Feb. 8 that damage and maintenance issues necessitate its temporary closure. It is unclear what will happen to the space at 201 N. Boeke Road, but officials will soon begin exploring options.
Safety concerns led officials to shutter the pool this season. Last summer, the pool — which opened in 1959 — saw open hours limited to weekends and a closed splash pad.
“This was an awesome amenity at this particular pool for several years,” says Danielle Crook, executive director of the City of Evansville’s Department of Parks and Recreation. “Last year, the administration worked with the parks department to close this amenity due to some unlevel pavement, a big safety concern. Water that poured into the mechanical room was another concern.”
As detailed in the August/September 2023 issue of Evansville Business, the city owns and operates six swimming pools, including Rochelle-Landers Pool at 701 Lincoln Ave.; Mosby Pool at 1045 S. Barker Ave.; Helfrich Pool at 2601 W. Maryland St.; Lorraine Pool at 2399 E. Adams Ave.; and the Deaconess Aquatic Center at 24 Don Mattingly Way in Garvin Park. Hartke is among the oldest pools in the city.
When officials did a walk-through of the entire facility earlier this year, damage visible around the pool deck had significantly worsened. Pipes used for pool water circulation and cleaning do not work and officials suspect the rest have been crushed, allowing water to seep into the ground. As a result, sand bleeds into the mechanical room through the walls and covers much of the space where the circulation and cleaning pipes filter, and flooding also has occurred there. Under the concrete of the pool deck, underground voids of air allowed the concrete to sink, leaving the surface unlevel and a safety hazard.
Cracks also are visible throughout the pool itself. A hole near the diving board is leaking groundwater, which would contaminate pool water if the pool were full. There is corrosion on the pool pumps, hardware, and steel filters. Also exacerbating the issue is that Hartke was designed and built without a liner, which is easier to maintain and fix.
Some swimmers may remember that a slide once existed. The filtration system needed to operate the slide is broken in several places, which led to the slide’s removal. The price tag for a new slide, repairing the filtration system, overhauling the landing area, and a new diving board is estimated to be $600,000.
Closing Hartke Pool for the season was not an easy decision, according to officials, who know that community members will miss swimming there this summer.
Ultimately, the disrepair comes down to age; the last major renovation done on the pool was in 1989. Now, officials are faced with the choice of repairing Hartke Pool or replacing it. The previous city administration allocated an undisclosed amount from the 2024 Capital Improvement Budget for a study that looks into the pool’s options.
“The study will tell us if it makes sense to renovate, build new on that location, build something else such as a splash pad, or build in a new location. The state of Hartke is a result of the ground underneath the pool shifting. Until a closer look can be taken at what is underneath the foundation, we can only assume what is causing the shifting of the concrete,” Crook says.
The department’s Five Year Master Plan led by Rundell Ernstberger Associates of Louisville, Kentucky, notes that Hartke Pool is among a trio of pools that “are at or beyond their expected life cycle.” The plan recommends folding the adjacent Roberts Park into Wesselman Park and treating the grounds — including Hartke Pool and Swonder Ice Area — as one facility.
She says no company has been contracted yet to take on that study, and there is no timeline yet for when it will start. Crook says that the fact there is already funding available is encouraging.
“What does it look like to build a new pool in its place, something similar or completely different? … The funding is already in place to take that next step,” Crook says.
If there is a benefit to closing Hartke, it means more programming at Lorraine Pool, which will be open seven days a week this summer and offer free lessons for all ages who do not know how to swim.
“We knew this was coming. Nothing lasts forever. At the end of the day, safety is the most important,” Crook says.