Construction of a new park with soccer fields and other sports amenities that has been in the works for years in Elgin is finally moving forward.
The Elgin City Council earlier this week awarded a $899,000 contract to Earthwerks Land Improvement and Development Corp., of Batavia, for the first phase of the construction of Jack E. Cook Regional Park in the city's far west side.
The 224-acre park on Plank Road, just north of Muirhead Road, is named after a former Kane County Board member who died in 2011.
The first phase will include a parking lot, two soccer fields, a tennis court, and a basketball court, plus a shelter and walking paths.
Long-term plans include two basketball courts and eight tennis courts, a skate park and a spray pad.
Councilwoman Tish Powell said she hopes a playground can be added sometime in the future.
Elgin bought the land for $4.3 million in 2005. In 2007, the Forest Preserve District of Kane County gave the city $1.8 million for about 93 acres of the park, which in turn it leased to the city for 99 years. That same year, the city received a $750,000 land acquisition grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
The state also gave the city an open space lands acquisition and development grant in 2011. The terms of the $400,000 grant require Elgin to substantially complete the park's improvements this year.
Elgin requested an extension from IDNR, but it was denied, City Manager Sean Stegall said. However, IDNR agreed to let Elgin scale back on the project, he added.
"If we continue to grow, not only are we going to need a new park for those residents, but we're going to need a new park for everybody because Wing (Park) and Lords Park cannot handle that demand," Stegall said.
Councilman Terry Gavin said the expense is worth it.
"I can see the benefit. It's a big chunk of land, but if it's not buildable, it's not buildable," he said.
Elgin Parks and Recreation Director Randy Reopelle said officials from Central School District 301 are considering contributing to the development or maintenance of the park.
The district's maintenance crews drive along Plank Road between school district buildings, Reopelle said. Also, the district wants to start a tennis team, he said.
School officials could not be reached for comment Friday.