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posted: 8/3/2012 4:14 PM

West Chicago seeks input on revised rec center proposal

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  • West Chicago Park District is seeking community input Aug. 14 on a revised proposal for a $15 million recreation center. Voters rejected a proposal in April to raise taxes to build a $19.9 million version of the center.

      West Chicago Park District is seeking community input Aug. 14 on a revised proposal for a $15 million recreation center. Voters rejected a proposal in April to raise taxes to build a $19.9 million version of the center.
    Courtesy of the West Chicago Park District


The West Chicago Park District isn't ready to give up on the idea of a new recreation center.

This spring, roughly 53 percent of district voters rejected a proposal to borrow $19.5 million to build a 79,000-square-foot rec center at the corner of Washington and Fremont streets.

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Now park officials have a new design that is 25 percent smaller, or 65,000 square feet, and would cost about $15 million. Officials say the lower price would reduce the estimated monthly property tax increase impact to about $5 per household and even lower for many seniors.

"What we tried to do is listen to what the community had to say and come back with something that was a little more targeted, a little trimmer," Executive Directory Gary Major said.

The park board will discuss a rendering of the proposed center at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 14 at the district office, 157 W. Washington St. The board is considering placing the new proposal on the November ballot and has until Aug. 19 to decide.

Commissioners will seek residents' opinions and comments at the meeting.

The proposed rec center would be in Reed-Keppler Park, rather than part of the downtown development the city plans to create at Washington and Freemont. Major said he believes the downtown plan ultimately will come to fruition, but the city is in a "period of transition" following the death of former Mayor Michael Kwasman and with elections in November.

"We felt as a park district we needed to move forward, because this (center) is a very important piece to the growth of West Chicago," Major said. "As we evaluated and got input from the community, we thought the more embraceable choice would be to go to Reed-Keppler, because that's where our other facilities are."

Reed-Keppler, an 89-acre site, is already home to athletic fields, a skate park, Turtle Splash Water Park, Wiggly Field Dog Park, playgrounds, trails, picnic pavilions and other amenities. And because infrastructure such as electrical hookups are already in place, the site would allow the recreation center to be built at a lower cost.

Though trimmer, the proposed facility would house a walking/jogging track, area for seniors, multipurpose gymnasiums, fitness area, dance studios, soccer/lacrosse area, indoor playground and other core recreation and fitness amenities.

Major said the park district would be "irresponsible" to not try to secure funding for the center. He noted that West Chicago has the highest child obesity rate in DuPage County, according to statistics compiled by the DuPage Health Department.

In addition, while the park district has a lot of open-space playgrounds and a popular water park, it lacks new facilities. Its dance classes, preschool and offices are housed in an old bank, while its fitness center occupies an old hardware store.

"I do think people feel like it's a bad time to raise taxes. I understand that," Major said. "But it's also a great time to build, it's a good value. And this is no Taj Mahal. It's straightforward and a very usable space and we have a great need for this.

"Our charge is to really assess the physical needs of the community from a health standpoint and it's time for us to get into the 21st century. It's time to stop saying 'let's wait until next year.'"

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