Arlington Heights park that hosts Frontier Days will get $1.35M upgrade

Arlington Heights' second-oldest and most centrally-located park is about to get a major makeover.

Recreation Park, the site of the annual Frontier Days festival and home to the park district's premier baseball diamond, soon will be on the receiving end of some $1.35 million in upgrades, which will include a new inclusive playground, skate park, picnic shelter and fitness equipment.

The improvements at Recreation - second in age only to Memorial Park - have been contemplated for some time, under a master plan developed by the park district. Officials hosted two open house meetings last August for residents to review preliminary designs.

But things have picked up speed since the district received word in January that it would be awarded a $400,000 state grant from the Open Space Land Acquisition and Development program. It was among nearly $30 million doled out to park districts throughout the state.

Under preliminary plans, the inclusive playground and 16-foot picnic shelter would be installed next to the existing playground in the northwest corner of the park. The new skate park would go on the opposite end, at the corner of Northwest Highway and Douglas Avenue.

Fresh asphalt will be laid to create a walking loop around the baseball field. Along the path, a rain garden with native plantings will provide stormwater detention, according to Ben Rea, the district's director of parks and planning.

It's the first major upgrade project at the park in nearly a decade, when the playground was installed. Smaller repairs to the pool deck near the diving well were completed over the winter, Rea said.

Monday marks the first day of the 2020 season for Recreation's Olympic-sized pool. But the upcoming project doesn't include any changes to the pool, which is the district's oldest and was remodeled in 1988.

Nor will there be any upgrades to the historic community center - also the district's oldest - which was built in 1937 under the Works Progress Administration.

The clock is now ticking for construction work to start and finish within the two-year time frame stipulated by the state grant guidelines.

The park board recently inked a $96,600 contract with Naperville-based Hitchcock Design Group to do design work and handle permitting and bidding. After the project goes to bid this fall, work could begin by next spring.

That means construction might take place around Frontier Days over Fourth of July weekend in 2021. The festival was canceled for the first time in 45 years this year due to the coronavirus, but organizers expect it to return next year.

"We'll have to work around it," said Carrie Fullerton, the park district's executive director. "We'll stage it to the best of our ability to have as little impact as possible."

The district also received a grant from the Illinois Park and Recreation Association and GameTime, a playground manufacturer, to help pay for the inclusive playground, while the park district's foundation is contributing $50,000 to the picnic shelter purchase. The district will fund the remaining expenses.

  While the existing playground at Recreation Park is staying put, a new inclusive playground will be installed nearby. It's among the upgrades in an Arlington Heights Park District project now being designed. Rick West/
  A new skate park is proposed for the southeast corner of Recreation Park in Arlington Heights. Rick West/
  A new inclusive playground, picnic shelter and fitness equipment are among the amenities coming to Recreation Park in Arlington Heights. Rick West/
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