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updated: 10/30/2012 5:48 PM

West Chicago rec center plan going back to voters

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  • The West Chicago Park District is seeking voter approval to construct a $15.5 million recreation center at Reed-Keppler Park.

    The West Chicago Park District is seeking voter approval to construct a $15.5 million recreation center at Reed-Keppler Park.
    Courtesy of the West Chicago Park District


West Chicago Park District officials are hoping that a revised plan and a different location make the difference in getting voters to back a proposed $15.5 million recreation center.

Voters during the April election rejected a property tax increase to pay for the facility when it was being pitched for the downtown area.

Next week, West Chicago residents will get the opportunity to weigh in on a downsized version of the proposal. The ballot question is seeking permission to build a 65,000-square-foot facility at Reed-Keppler Park.

"All we can do is respond to people who are asking for certain needs or facilities," said Gary Major, executive director of the park district.

"The (April) vote was very close," Major said. "We were able to determine that we didn't quite hit the mark on exactly what everybody wanted. So we made some changes."

Major said there has been positive feedback about moving the project to Reed-Keppler, which already is home to athletic fields, a skate park, Turtle Splash Water Park, Wiggly Field Dog Park, playgrounds, trails, picnic pavilions and other amenities.

The proposed recreation center would have a walking/jogging track, an area for seniors, multipurpose gymnasiums, a fitness center, dance studios, event rental space and an indoor playground. It also would have a multipurpose activity court that could be used for lacrosse, soccer, volleyball and other group activities, officials said.

If voters support the project, property taxes for the owner of a $250,000 house would increase about $60 a year, officials said. Right now, that same homeowner pays about $239 a year to the district.

The changes to the proposal reduced its cost by millions of dollars. And while the building is smaller than originally designed, it has about the same amount of activity space, Major said.

"We're just being smarter with how we spend the money," he said.

Major acknowledges that the economy makes it tough for any park district to seek more money from taxpayers. Still, he said, West Chicago is in "a unique situation."

While the district has outdoor space, its indoor space consists of an old hardware store the city owns and a former bank building that houses the district's administrative offices.

"We don't have one (indoor) basketball court," Major said. "We have a dance room in a basement -- and it floods."

Meanwhile, West Chicago is surrounded by communities that already have recreation centers.

"We're behind the times right now," Major said. "We need this. It's time to stop waiting until next year."

If approved, construction of the West Chicago recreation center would start in summer 2013.

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