Work is scheduled to begin early next month on a yearlong project to build a $15.5 million, 67,000-square-foot recreation center in West Chicago's Reed-Keppler Park.
When complete, park district officials say the center near 129 W. National St. will meet a long-simmering demand for indoor recreation in a district where such space previously was limited to a former hardware store, an old bank and whatever gyms area schools could make available.
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The district has scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony for 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, but Executive Director Gary Major said some of the site work for the building already will have begun by then.
Park voters approved funding for the center in a November 2012 referendum question after originally rejecting plans for a more expensive facility earmarked for downtown. The rec center will cost the owner of a $250,000 house, who currently pays about $239 a year in property taxes to the district, an additional $65 a year.
Residents who opposed the downtown site appeared more receptive to a less-expensive center in Reed-Keppler, which already houses athletic fields, a skate park, Turtle Splash Water Park, playgrounds, trails and picnic pavilions.
Major said construction will cause some disruptions at the park -- particularly involving some ball fields -- over the next year, but the inconveniences will be worth it when the new facility opens late next summer. The one-story building will include three gyms, a multipurpose activity court, walking track, fitness center, dance and aerobics studios, meeting rooms and more.
"It will be unique," he said, "because it's the only large recreation center in the Chicago area that will be built on one level," although the running track will be elevated.
The district began seriously considering plans for a rec center after a 2008 resident survey showed many park patrons put the need for a year-round facility at the top of their wish lists.
"We're excited about the potential" to offer additional programming, Major said, from creating volleyball leagues to providing open gym time. He said the building will allow the district to better serve all age groups, but especially kids.
Over the past six months officials have focused primarily on building issues, he said, but now will also start to turn their attention toward making sure patrons can make the best use of the building.
He said the district estimates it will cost about $750,000 a year to staff and operate the center. Roughly $250,000 of that involves costs of existing programs that will move to the center from other locations; the rest will be covered by user fees and not property taxes.
There are several benefits to placing the center in Reed-Keppler Park, he said. For one, it has allowed the district to speed up the construction timetable compared to the downtown site. For another, residents like the idea of having the facility in the same place as the water park and many ball fields.
For many residents, there also seems to be an emotional connection to the site. "Reed-Keppler," he said, "is kind of warm and fuzzy."