Work on the massive $31 million renovation of Heritage Park in Wheeling recently started with the purchase of a small building on Egidi Drive for $2.5 million.
The building will replace the existing parks and facility building at 222 S. Wolf Road, which will be torn down to make way for the construction of a stormwater retention basin. The funds for the purchase came from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, which is funding the entire Heritage Park project, said Matt Wehby, Wheeling Park District's Director of Parks and Recreation Services.
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"It's a big building with high ceilings that will be perfect," Wehby said. "I believe it was built in 2006, but it's been vacant for several years."
The Wheeling Park District plans to vacate the existing facility on Wolf Road by September. For the next four months, park district officials will prepare the new building.
It's the first step in the massive renovation of Heritage Park that is nearly 20 years in the making and will also build a reservoir to alleviate flooding in the Des Plaines River watershed.
In July 2010, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District began engineering and design work for the Buffalo Creek reservoir project targeted for Wheeling's 100-acre Heritage Park, south of Dundee Road and west of Wolf Road.
The reservoir would serve as a compensatory storage area for waters held back by Levee 37, 2.3 miles downstream.
Levee 37 is a roughly $28 million U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project currently under way to prevent flooding in neighborhoods west of the Des Plaines River in Mount Prospect, Prospect Heights and a portion of unincorporated Cook County.
The reservoir would have been built before Levee 37 construction began. But the project was delayed for years due to funding issues and because an earlier chosen site in Buffalo Grove fell through when an agreement could not be reached with the Lake County Forest Preserve District.
Aside from its regional impact on flood control, the reservoir project is a boon to Wheeling residents because it includes nearly $10 million worth of improvements to Heritage Park. According to the agreement, the water reclamation district will help redevelop 80 acres of the park, providing recreational amenities and other improvements such as a band shell for concerts and movies, a baseball/softball sports complex with electric scoreboards and lighted fields, a pavilion, walking paths, and nature viewings areas.
"The park district is paying for some lighting, garbage bins and maybe a scoreboard, but the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is paying for the bulk of it," Wehby said.
The project should be complete by the end of 2013.