The Vernon Hills Park District hopes to leverage state dollars to make a significant expansion at its Lakeview Fitness Center.
The district has spent about $1 million on improvements since it assumed the ownership and operation of the former Central Lake YMCA on Jan. 1, 2013. But the possibility of a state grant of up to $2.5 million has park district officials looking to expand by adding a gym and increasing the size of the pool.
Park officials are working on a proposal in advance of a March 10 deadline for $6 million in proposed improvements at the facility, 700 Lakeview Parkway. The main features of the proposal include a gymnasium with an elevated walking track and expanding the pool from three to six lanes. Locker room renovation, storage and expanded parking also will be outlined in the application that would boost the 34,000-square-foot facility by an additional 15,000 square feet.
"We know we need a gym. That's a priority," said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director. An indoor track was requested by respondents to a park district survey a few years ago, he said.
Vernon Hills will apply for a Park and Recreational Facility Construction Act grant to be dispersed by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The agency has a pool of $25 million to distribute, with 20 percent to be awarded to the Chicago Park District. The maximum individual award is 10 percent of the total or $2.5 million.
Fougerousse said the last time this grant was available, there were 300 applicants for $40 million with 19 communities receiving something.
"What are the chances? You've got to have a good project," he added.
The district acquired the facility with an interest-free $2.025 million loan from the village. Terms of the loan are 13 years, with no payments for the first three years. The YMCA said it would have closed the facility because of financial woes.
Park board President David Doerhoefer said there has been an "overwhelming" response from the public to the renovated facility. Pursuing the grant presents a "unique opportunity" and potential value for taxpayers, he added.
"It's a different facility than it used to be," he said.
If it were to secure the full grant amount, the district could cover the difference through its bonding authority, Doerhoefer said. If it gets a partial award, the board would have to determine whether to proceed but likely would not if it got nothing.