Three area park districts -- Naperville, West Chicago and Fox Valley -- will receive a total of $7 million in state grant money for construction projects, officials said.
Naperville Park District will receive $2.5 million of that total for a new activity center -- the maximum amount possible through the state's Park and Recreation Construction grants program.
The West Chicago Park District also is receiving $2.5 million and the Fox Valley Park District is getting $2 million.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced the grants Monday during an appearance in Aurora.
"(The grant money) will allow us to provide a better product in terms of the activity center," Naperville park board President Mike Reilly said. "What form that takes now is going to take some additional thought."
Naperville staff members will develop recommendations for how the money should be spent as part of the $23 million project to build an activity center expected to cover between 70,000 square feet and 75,000 square feet at Quincy Avenue and Fort Hill Drive. The center is expected to house basketball and volleyball courts, a walking track, a fitness center, a gymnastics room, dance studios, a cafe, a child-care center with an indoor playground, offices and multipurpose rooms.
"The governor and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources embraced what we had to say about the new activity center," Executive Director Ray McGury said Tuesday. "The whole population is currently underserved; certainly the special-needs residents and the seniors. I think they saw that and agreed, and we couldn't be happier."
McGury said one possibility is to add the grant money to the activity center's budget to help pay for more space or features.
The building was scaled back from 80,000 square feet and a third basketball court was removed from the plan to stay under budget. While $2.5 million may not be enough to pay for a third court, the district will investigate that option, Reilly and McGury said.
The grant money also could be used to install more durable flooring and other materials that would have a longer life span; or it could be factored into the $23 million budget to offset current costs.
The district aims to break ground on the activity center next spring.
"With the economy, certainly people are looking for more affordable options for recreation and socialization. We think the activity center is going to be a hub for that," Reilly said. "This money is certainly going to help. Now we have to make good decisions about how to utilize it."
West Chicago Park District will put its $2.5 million grant toward a $3.5 million indoor turf facility in Reed-Keppler Park to provide practice space for soccer, lacrosse, softball, baseball, golf and weight training, Executive Director Gary Major said.
A building of roughly 24,000 square feet will be built on the former site of a maintenance facility not far from the park district's new Athletics, Recreation and Community Center, which is scheduled to open Sept. 6. The turf practice space originally was included within the ARC Center, but Major said it was removed because of budget constraints.
Now, the district could begin construction on the facility next spring or fall.
"We're designing it in a way for a lot of versatility," Major said. "We're emphasizing the learning of the sports and training for the sports and practice facilities for the winter."
Fox Valley Park District will put its $2 million toward the $2.6 million expansion of its fitness center and improvements at Prisco Community Center in Aurora.
Fitness center space will increase to more than 5,000 square feet from 1,500 square feet. New areas will provide more room for early childhood and Creative Play Preschool classrooms, renovated locker rooms and senior fitness facilities.