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updated: 10/10/2013 12:10 AM

Naperville Park District eyes land for activity center

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Naperville Park District is targeting a five-acre lot on a street that's becoming an "athletics row" as the future home of an activity center to provide indoor recreation and a gathering space for residents.

The park board is scheduled to vote next month on the purchase of land at Quincy Avenue and Fort Hill Drive to house a $20 million activity center by sometime in 2016, Executive Director Ray McGury said.

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The center would meet a need residents have identified as vital in three community surveys over the past nine years by providing amenities such as basketball courts, a walking track, multipurpose rooms, and possibly a small fitness center and cafe. A swimming pool, however, is not part of the plan.

"This is truly more of an activity community center than it is just sports," McGury said.

Providing space for more recreation and socialization for senior citizens and people with special needs is another main focus, McGury said.

"A lot of our seniors go to Fox Valley mall to walk," park board President Rich Janor said. "We don't think that is the best scenario. We'd like to have something for them right here in our community, so an indoor walking track would be something we would certainly consider."

A Nov. 14 vote on the land purchase, at a yet-unspecified price included in the project's estimated $20 million cost, is the first step in the three-year process of building the new facility.

The activity center will be funded without asking voters for a tax increase by using a combination of land funds, donations, investments, grants and current tax revenue. McGury said the park district also has delayed some projects to prioritize the activity center because it will address the district's most critical needs.

In January and February, the district plans to gather public input about what specifically to include in the activity center, envisioned as a 60,000- to 80,000-square-foot space.

Next to Players Indoor Sports and sharing Quincy Avenue frontage with Naperville Gymnastics Club and Goldfish Swim School, the five-acre lot the park district plans to buy from a private owner was chosen for its central location within the sprawling city, officials said. The land also is next to a city public works facility, and McGury said the buildings may be able to share parking.

When the activity center opens, it likely will host many classes and programs now offered in borrowed spaces -- like karate, gymnastics and sports clinics for kids in carpeted elementary school gymnasiums, or yoga sessions in preschool classrooms. The activity center won't look to compete with private sector health clubs and their expansive floors of cardio and weightlifting equipment.

"If we do something on the fitness side, it will very much be an introductory, entry-level offering," Janor said.

The activity center idea is garnering support from the Western DuPage Special Recreation Association, an extension of nine park districts from Naperville to Roselle that provides active opportunities for people with special needs.

"The idea of the park district looking at getting additional space is wonderful," said Sandy Gbur, executive director of the organization. "That would be a dream come true for WDSRA."

Gbur said full-size, hardwood basketball courts and multipurpose spaces -- possibly with universal design principles that make life easier for people who use wheelchairs -- are top on her organization's indoor space wish list.

"Naperville has always been deficient in space for our youths because they have other programs they're trying to run as well," Gbur said. "They can't give us everything we always want."

The 2,500 registered WDSRA participants in Naperville often have to travel north to Wheaton or Carol Stream for wheelchair basketball, dances, social clubs and music lessons when space at the 95th Street Center or the Sportsman's Park clubhouse isn't available.

Park district officials said the activity center will allow them to do better than that for people with disabilities, senior citizens and anyone in the community looking for a place to exercise, socialize or simply get out of the house.

"The social component is a big piece of this," Janor said. "This will be a gathering place for Naperville residents of all ages and also on a year-round basis."

Land: Special rec association likes center's new space

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