More than three years after a major referendum push, planning and construction, and a $19 million price tag, a new health and fitness destination in Carol Stream is ready for its public unveiling.
The park district's two-story, 90,846-square-foot Fountain View Recreation Center, in the Ross Ferraro Town Center at Gary Avenue and Lies Road, will host a grand opening from 1 to 6 p.m. Saturday, although those who have already signed up for memberships have been able to use the facility following a "soft" opening earlier this week.
For 19-year Carol Stream resident Steve Prang, it's the culmination of a multiyear effort by a citizens group he helped lead to get a new recreation center in town.
In 2009, Prang and 11 other members of the park district's 2025 citizen steering committee began surveying the community about their desired recreation options.
With the existing fitness center and gyms at the Simkus Recreation Center often becoming cramped, Prang says he kept hearing from residents that they wanted a larger rec center. Many expressed they'd like to see a new indoor pool, after the closure of the 40-year-old indoor Collins Pool in Armstrong Park.
In February 2010, more than 57 percent of voters authorized raising taxes to fund a $37 million parks improvement program, of which the rec center was the largest project.
Now Carol Stream has its new rec center with a bigger pool, gymnasium and fitness center, along with a walking track, multipurpose rooms, fitness classrooms and child day care center.
"This completes the whole area," Prang said. "If there's a centerpiece for this community, this is it."
Park board President Tim Powers called the opening of the facility -- the largest construction project in the park district's history -- "the dawn of a new era" for the district.
"We let our residents tell us what they needed in our community and I believe we have given them the amenities they asked for with no superfluous luxuries," Powers said.
The six acres on which the new rec center sits was sold to the park district from the village for $1.6 million. At one time, there were plans to build a hotel there.
But Village Manager Joe Breinig said the original vision for the entire Town Center site was to create a sense of community for a village that developed in the 1950s without a downtown.
The rec center is adjacent to the nearby village-owned space that features walking trails, a gazebo and fountain, and is the site of summertime concerts and July Fourth fireworks.
"What this building does is takes to the nth degree the concept of what the Town Center was supposed to be," Breinig said.
Inside, patrons have already been swimming laps, running the track, and lifting weights.
The 8-lane, 25-yard pool is located on the first floor, and will be available for swimming lessons, open swim, and use by the park district's Dolphins swim team. Per a park district agreement with Glenbard High School District 87, Glenbard North physical education swimming classes will be able to use the pool during school hours, and the Glenbard North/East swimming team will be able to use it for practices in the early morning and late evening.
A separate, smaller warm water therapy pool will be used for some swimming lessons and aquatics fitness classes.
The 7,500-square-foot fitness area on the second floor features more than 100 pieces of equipment such as free weights, cardio and strength machines. There's also saunas and two fitness class studios. Four nutritionists and seven personal trainers are on staff.
The old fitness equipment at Simkus was either traded in or sold to Benjamin Elementary District 25 for its gym. Simkus will still host park district programming such as dance and gymnastics classes, and officials say it's likely the district's administrative offices will relocate there from their temporary location at the Historic Farmhouse on Lies Road.
The 3-court gymnasium is adjacent to the pool on the first floor, and up above is the second-floor walking track.
Some 1,500 people have signed up for memberships already, thanks to park district direct mailing and online marketing efforts during the past couple months. About 200 new memberships alone were added since the "soft" opening of the facility on Sunday, said Julie Vogl, the district's director of marketing services.
Anyone can join the fitness center, though residents are given a discounted rate: $45 per month, and $22 for an additional family member. The Carol Stream Park District also has agreements with the village of Glendale Heights and the Winfield Park District that allows their residents to use the pool at Carol Stream rates.
Paige Sarrels and her husband Scott are two of the new members at the rec center. After receiving mailings about the new facility, the couple decided to sign up because of its proximity, amenities and affordability.
"It's like Lifetime Fitness, but half the cost," she said following a workout. "It's nice knowing a town takes a commitment to its residents. It's nice to know your tax dollars are going to something you can actually see and use."
While most of the $19 million cost to build the rec center is being funded by the February 2010 referendum dollars, the park district also received grant funding to help defray costs. The extra funds include $2 million from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources intended for new park and recreational facility projects, $240,000 from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for the facility's energy efficient systems, $117,000 from the DuPage County Water Quality Improvement program for the permeable paver parking lot, and $5,000 from the Carol Stream Rotary Club for patio benches and trees.
The park board approved a $18.2 million construction contract with Riley Construction Company in October 2011, but the final cost is expected to be closer to $19 million due to change orders, including installation of different tiles in the women's fitness locker room bathroom/shower area deemed by the board to have a more appealing look.
Parks officials will be pursuing LEED silver level certification -- the second from last on a four-tier U.S. Green Building Council scale -- for the facility's environmental features. The building contains a geothermal system and natural lighting to reduce heating and cooling costs, and bioswale ditches outside to absorb stormwater.
The grand opening event Saturday will feature free swimming, tours of the building and crafts for children.