Generations grew up swimming in the historic Belleville Pool which is now back in business - Belleville News-Democrat

Generations grew up swimming in the historic Belleville Pool which is now back in business – Belleville News-Democrat

Greg Steele and Phil Kaman Jr. came of age at Elks’ Westhaven’s pool in Belleville in the 1970s and 1980s.

They could never have imagined that they would one day own it.

“We loved going there as kids,” said Steele, 56, who now lives in Austin, Texas. “Our parents would drop us off and leave us all day. I have fond memories – swimming on hot summer days, diving board competitions – and the snack bar was a great place to get a burger.

“It was just such a fun, family-friendly and safe place,” he said.

Stiehl will return to Belleville in early June to reopen Westhaven, which closed in 2019 after 82 years in operation. Many people assumed it was permanent.

But Stiehl and Kammann, also 56, of Belleville, bought the pool and three tennis courts in February from Elks Lodge 481. They’ve been renovating and redecorating since then, with the help of family and friends.

“We still have a lot to do,” Kaman said Thursday. “It’s a work in progress.”

Plans call for at least one tennis court They have been converted into pickle ball fields. that sportwhich combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, has skyrocketed in popularity nationwide.

Clubs The new name is Westhaven Pool and Tennis Club. Anyone can join, and day tickets are available for guests accompanied by members.

Enthusiasm for reopening has been building in the neighborhood in recent weeks, according to Stiehl’s cousin, Patti Tibbett, 56, of Belleville, who is helping with the renovations.

“People of all ages have stopped here, and are so grateful that someone bought it and brought it back to life,” she said. “They missed having something on this side of town. People just loved it.”

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Phil Kaman Jr., second from left, and Greg Stehl celebrated the purchase of Belleville’s old Westhaven pool with their mothers, Nan Kaman Judd, left, and Sherwin Meyer in February. Submitted

Opened in 1937

The Westhaven Pool and Tennis Club is located at 1513 S. Illinois St. It is just south of the old Elks headquarters, which is now a good rental location.

Arthur Buesch opened the pool in 1937 as part of his Westhaven development, which began with a subdivision in the 1920s and continued with a nine-hole golf course, pool, and six tennis courts in the 1930s.

The development’s name came from the B.H. West family’s prominent Westhaven estate in the vicinity, according to Belleville historian Bob Brunkow.

“Reduce the cost of living and stay healthy by living in the country,” said a 1928 newspaper advertisement for the subdivision, noting that it had “electricity, water, and a paved highway.”

The Westhaven Pool was opened on Memorial Day, May 30, 1937, when the holiday was still observed on Sundays.

A newspaper ad the day before called on people to “swim in the pristine waters of the best swimming pool in southern Illinois” with “fully purified water every 7 hours.”

Entry fees were 40 cents for adults and 30 cents for children, with single season tickets available for $10. Swimming tickets cost $3.50 for adults and $2.50 for children.

Ownership of the billiards and tennis courts changed hands at least twice before the Elks took over in the mid-1960s, but Buesch’s descendants continued to operate the golf course until 2004, when a developer bought it to build the Westhaven Meadows subdivision.

“We didn’t get enough play from the people in the area,” Ruth Bush told BND at the time. “Buyers are looking to use the land to build homes.”

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A 1928 ad in the Belleville News-Democrat promoting the new Westhaven division, left. On the right, a 1937 ad announcing the opening of the pool. Submitted

Courtyard and four floors

Today, the historic Westhaven property is surrounded by mature trees that provide shade for people perched on umbrellas and picnic tables on the patio and four decks. Ornamental grasses line a wrought iron fence and daylilies fill the landscape bed.

Kaman’s mother, Nan Kaman Jude, repaints the colorful tiles prominent on the concrete walls and fills the plantations with flowers. Greg’s mother, Sherwin Meyer, is also an active volunteer.

The club’s new crest is round like a tennis ball with a watercolor and gold image of ‘Sunshine over calm waters’.

“We try to add color and art,” Kaman said. “…We will plant more trees. We will really try to make this an oasis. It will be a retreat.”

There is a brick concession stand and a covered bar, next to the band stand with an old world style backdrop. Television will broadcast St. Louis Cardinals and Blues games and other sports.

The brick and white bathroom has dressing rooms downstairs and a bar upstairs with a wall of windows overlooking the pool.

“We’ll start (in the concession stand) with a limited menu — pizza, hamburger, hot dogs, chicken tenders, wraps — and then we’ll expand,” Kaman said.

Westhaven already has a 2022 swimming team with over 80 members. Many come from King’s Point Athletic Club, which closed last year. Belleville Township High School District 201 purchased the building with plans to convert it into a career center.

She will coach the Westhaven Waves, formerly Kings Point, by Caroline Evinger and Brock Juncker. Curator Jeff Juncker, Brooke’s father, noted that the reopening of Westhaven prevented swimmers from getting distracted and joining different teams in the area.

“We have a good core group that wants to stay part of a family,” he said.

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The Westhaven Pool and Tennis Club in Belleville, which reopens next weekend, has a brick concession stand and a covered outdoor bar with patio seating. It will offer pizza, burgers, sausages, wraps and chicken at first. Derek Holtman dholtmann@bnd.com

background in bowling

Phil Kaman is no stranger to the entertainment industry. He worked for his father, Phil Kaman Sr., the former owner of St Clair Bowl, before running two of his own bowling alleys. He is now an account manager for the window and door company at Glen Carbon.

The Stiehl family has owned and operated Stiehl’s Pharmaceutical Stores in Belleville for decades. He left Illinois after college and now works as a chip engineer for Apple in Austin.

Kammann and Steihl have remained friends since graduating from Belleville West High School in 1984. Over the years, they have talked a lot about becoming partners in entrepreneurial efforts. Westhaven looked perfectly fit.

“We believe that by investing a little money in it and making some improvements, we can increase its value as well as its attractiveness,” Stiehl said.

People can become Westhaven members by purchasing season tickets, which cost $600 per couple or $360 per person, plus $35 per child from ages 3 to 17 or $50 per child between 18 and 24. Day tickets are available for $25 if accompanied by guests.

According to Steele, the more people who join, the easier it will be to keep membership costs low.

In recent weeks, the partners have hired contractors for electrical, plumbing and other infrastructure upgrades. They cleaned the floor, painted the faded pool a light blue, installed a new floor in the bathroom and otherwise spruced up the space.

Kammann and Stiehl intend to open on June 4 if they can obtain all the necessary permits and approvals.

“There is still a lot to be done here,” Steele’s cousin Tibbett said Thursday. “But what we actually did – you wouldn’t believe it. The property has not been maintained for three years. It is much nicer.”

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The tennis courts at Westhaven Pool and Tennis Club in Belleville were grimy and covered in debris when the new owners took over earlier this year, and they left. To the right, workers paint the faded pond a light blue. Submitted

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The new owners of Westhaven Pool and Tennis Club in Belleville repainted their tennis courts, which were dirt and covered in debris. At least one will be converted into pickle ball pitches. Derek Holtman dholtmann@bnd.com

This story was originally published May 31, 2022 5:00 a.m.

Profile picture of Terry Maddox

Terry Maddox has been a reporter for 37 years, joining Belleville News-Democrat in 1990. She also teaches journalism at St. Louis Community College in Forest Park. She holds degrees from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and University of Wisconsin-Madison.


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