Vernon Hills Park District snares $2.24 million state grant to expand Lakeview Fitness

The Vernon Hills Park District will receive a $2.24 million state grant to expand and renovate its Lakeview Fitness facility.

The park district is among a dozen recipients announced Tuesday sharing about $25 million in Park and Recreational Facility Construction Act grants for various projects.

Vernon Hills was the only entity in Lake County - or any collar county - to receive the funding, which is part of the Rebuild Illinois capital program.

"We were pleasantly surprised," said park district Executive Director Jeff Fougerousse. "We had submitted this grant back in 2019."

The grants are administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The agency received 91 applications totaling $141.5 million for $25 million available funding

The Chicago Park District received $5 million for projects at six parks, but all other recipients were for single locations.

The Vernon Hills Park District will use the grant for a 3,300-square-foot addition to expand the health/fitness area and create support offices. Other planned work includes rebuilding and updating the locker room, adding a new group exercise room and a new bathroom with shower.

The pool will be modified to expand the number of lap lanes from four to six. Also, a shallow water spray feature and a new American with Disabilities Act pool lift will be installed.

Half the pool is zero depth and used about once a week by the on-site licensed child care facility, according to Fougerousse.

"We felt we needed to repurpose our indoor aquatic operation," he said. "We'll basically lessen the zero depth area. The plan is to get six lap lanes."

Outside, parking will be added and stormwater detention facilities expanded.

The grant represents 75% of the project funding, with the remaining 25% required from the park district. Recipients are reimbursed as work is completed.

Lakeview Fitness, 700 Lakeview Parkway, is the former Central Lake YMCA, which was slated to close because of financial woes. The park district acquired the building with an interest-free $2.025 million village loan and assumed ownership and operation on Jan. 1, 2013.

The district spent about $1 million to improve the center, but more ambitious expansion plans have been on hold.

Lakeview was closed for a time because of the pandemic but reopened in June with outdoor exercise classes. A limited number of members were allowed inside beginning in July.

Many of the 2,500 memberships are on hold and not paying dues, but less than 2% have been canceled, according to Fougerousse.

"We've been hit hard, there's no question," he said.

The district has not been charging membership hold fees, and about 25% of the memberships that were on hold have since been reactivated.

Fougerousse said park districts and fitness center operators are waiting to hear details of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's pending revised reopening plan.

"We're kind of anxious to hear what that is and what that would entail," he said. "There are a lot of other aspects of our operation we'd like to open fully."

Vernon Hills Park District takes over YMCA

Old Vernon Hills YMCA to show new look Saturday

Vernon Hills Park District eyes gym, expanded pool for former YMCA facility

Vernon Hills Park District to make early payment on YMCA loan

The reception area of the Lakeview Fitness Center in Vernon Hills as it was preparing to open in 2013 after the Vernon Hills Park District bought the facility from the YMCA. Daily Herald File Photo, 2013
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