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Community excited as plans to breathe new life into abandoned East St. Louis pool move forward

The historic Pop Myles pool has sat vacant for more than a decade. That’s expected to change with extra funds coming from the state.

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — A multi-million dollar project could soon be underway to breathe new life into an abandoned swimming pool in East St. Louis.

The historic Pop Myles pool has sat vacant for more than a decade. That’s expected to change with extra funds coming from the state.

Music in Lincoln Park on a sunny evening finds adults relaxing after a long day and kids playing on the playground.

But if you take a closer look.

"It's the only thing missing,” East St. Louis Park District Police Chief DeMarius Thomas said pointing to an abandoned swimming pool.

A big piece of what once brought so much charm to East St. Louis is no more.

"I learned how to swim here when I was younger,” he said.

For Thomas, it's personal. An unofficial part of his job is forming bonds with young people. It frustrates him that they're not able to play in the pool he grew up playing in. The same pool those who came before him also grew up playing in.

"If you go back to the history of this place, during segregation, this is where Blacks came, here to Lincoln Park,” he pointed out.

The pool, known as the Pop Myles Pool, closed due to a structural leak more than a decade ago. It's sat dormant since, despite talks to revitalize it in the past. 

Now 5 On Your Side has learned Governor J.B. Pritzker's $46 billion state budget includes $3 million to bring the pool and its facilities back to life. It will take a couple of years before the pool re-opens, but the community is so grateful to see the conversation happening again.

"We used to run through this park,” Jerry Johnson said. The 59 year old East St. Louis native is proud to see new life to his hometown. "It's more than pride. It's a legacy."

Because there are so many memories here. Memories rooted in history and now, hope.

"With the pool open, kids who don't know how to swim can learn how to swim,” Thomas added.

Something so simple can mean a lot.

5 On Your Side asked Chief Thomas where local kids go now if they don't have a pool at home.

"Honestly, I don't know unless they got a gym membership to go to the YMCA. Everybody's shutting down their pools,” he responded.

Which is why he finds the Governor's allocation all the more refreshing.

"Just think about all the negative stuff you hear about East St. Louis. Now, with this park, with this court, it gives the youth something to do instead of just, when they come outside, there's nothing to do. I mean, what are they going to do?" he asked.

Lincoln Park is already home to a new tennis court. The Mary Brown recreation center is also located there, providing after-school activities for kids. Leaders say reviving the pool would help that area come full circle.

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