How Batavia Park District’s new community center will benefit the city

A year ago, the Batavia Park District revealed it would name its future community center in honor of longtime park board member and president Patrick Callahan.

For a moment, I may have been among those not in the know who had an initial burst of enthusiasm by confusing the term community center with that of a fitness/recreation center.

That’s not what the Patrick J. Callahan Community Center at 150 Houston St. will be. But make no mistake, this two-story building that the park district purchased will provide a great service to the community and any future planning for the park district.

As for park district fitness classes in Batavia, those will remain at the current park district facility at 14 N. Van Buren St. One could speculate that if the Callahan Center somehow opens up more space at the current park district site, there could be some expanded fitness offerings at Van Buren — if residents want that sort of thing.

After all, two past fitness center plans, one proposed at the retail strip on the west side of Island Avenue and the other for a facility near the Quarry Pool, were shot down by voters in past referendums seeking funding.

Callahan Community Center, targeting a 2027 opening, won’t run into that sort of wall — especially in light of last week’s news that the park district received a $2.8 million grant from an Illinois Department of Natural Resources program that will help fund renovations at the future “multi-generational center” in downtown Batavia.

That money, from a grant program tied into Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois initiative will come to the park district throughout the project, the park district said.

The park district purchased the 12,420-square-foot, two-story building in 2021 to convert it into the community center to increase indoor recreation space.

There’s that term “recreation” again. It’s not recreation, like playing basketball or swimming or aerobics.

It’s more about activities for card games, trivia games, space for senior organizations, group parties or meetings and a child-care room.

In addition, the Batavia Historical Society, which locked in its spot within the center through a $430,000 donation, will benefit from more room for collections, workrooms, museum labs, and office space for staff.

There has also been talk about the center being a new home for Batavia Access Television.

Ultimately, it is tricky to envision how it will all play out, but it is not hard to see that this will be a fine addition to the Batavia community. There will be benefits in many areas because of having a community center of this type. A key one is that the park district plans to use its capital budget to pay for construction, which includes an elevator and ADA-compliant ramps, so it currently sees no need to raise taxes.

An artist’s rendering of the building, right across Houston Street from the Depot Museum, gives one an idea of what it could look like. Renderings are always fun to ponder. Batavians certainly want the building to look nice and continue to fit in along Houston Street.

Based on what we are hearing and the fact that a critical grant came rolling in, the most important thing will be what is inside the building and the people running it.

Prom planning

This is a note about prom preparations that reminds me how fast a school year passes by compared to what it seemed like when I was in school so many years ago.

Plans are in place once again for CHIP IN Batavia and the Batavia Public Library to start collecting prom dresses for the Prom Dress Giveaway, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 9, at the library.

CHIP IN is soon taking donations of clean prom dresses in good to excellent condition, shoes, purses, jewelry, and accessories that can be dropped off at the library check-out desk.

Donations, including wraps, hair items and new makeup, can be dropped off between Thursday, Feb. 1, and Friday, March 8.

Remember, this program is open to any high school student from any school. Last year, CHIP IN provided 830 dresses to 42 schools and four charities.

Dave’s Hot Chicken is opening a new suburban location in Batavia. Courtesy of Dave’s Hot Chicken

More chicken in Batavia

Dave’s Hot Chicken has plans to locate near the Jewel parking lot on Randall Road in Batavia. Work has already started to clear a space in the northeast corner of that area, near the Little Caesar’s and Zano’s Salon and Day Spa.

A couple of years ago, Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke took his wife on a date, heading down to Naperville to try Dave’s Hot Chicken at 2738 Show Place Drive after he knew the chain was interested in a spot along Randall Road.

He was impressed enough to feel it would be a nice addition to Batavia’s restaurant offerings.

It also creates a “Chicken Alley” along Randall Road in Batavia, with Chick-fil-A, Raising Canes and Chicken Salad Chick nearby.

Dave’s Hot Chicken is an operation by Dave Kopushyan and his partners that started in a parking lot in East Hollywood in 2017. Its website says it wasn’t the grandest of grand openings, with a couple of folding tables and a portable fryer “under the night sky.”

But the buzz began quickly on social media, the people came, and the rest is history.

Operating out of Pasadena, California, Dave’s Hot Chicken has grown to more than 100 locations nationwide.

In addition to the restaurant in Naperville, Dave’s Hot Chicken also has a spot along Randall Road in Algonquin and North Avenue in Melrose Park.

It appears the “hot” level is such that anyone can enjoy this chicken, regardless of their endurance level, for all things spicy. The order options are no spice, light mild, mild, medium, hot, extra hot and “reaper.”

I enjoy chicken enough to find this place interesting, but a key aspect that shouldn’t be overlooked is that it also sells “top-loaded” shakes. That means if you buy an Oreo shake, the top of it is just covered in Oreo cookies. Count me in.

Turnout for river talk

Those involved with organizations focusing on keeping the Fox River healthy were hoping for a big turnout for a presentation last week at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles addressing alternative options to dam removal.

No one thought the theater would be overflowing, but those who attended estimated about 500 people showed up.

“There were many positive comments in the feedback,” said John Rabchuk of the River Corridor Foundation. “I think folks understand that something is going to change based on the recommendation from the Army Corps of Engineers, but now understand there are alternatives to just dam removal.”

Those concerned about how the communities up and down the Fox River decide to either keep dams in place or remove them likely left the meeting last week, realizing there are no perfect answers.

“The power boaters and paddlewheel boats want the water level to remain, but they also want the algae dealt with, which would be better addressed with dam removal and lower water,” Rabchuk noted.

For now, everyone seems pleased that there was a lot of positive feedback and interaction and only a few “hecklers” who were pretty much ignored.

Always a nice gesture

When Balmoral Restaurant owner Colin Smith says he respects his elders, he backs that up with free meals from his popular Scottish restaurant in Campton Hills.

As he has done the past few years, Smith recently closed his restaurant to the general public for a few days and provided free meals for those 65 and older. What used to be a two-day event was expanded to four days this year, as Balmoral held its Senior Day earlier this month.

Smith cites his childhood as an orphan as a key motivator in serving up to 1,000 free meals to seniors. He said the kindness of strangers, many of whom were seniors, helped him find his path in life as an operator of 11 restaurants in the United Kingdom before moving to the U.S.

He established a GoFundMe page for anyone local wanting to donate to the event, costing an estimated $50,000.

A tip of the hat to Mr. Smith. It’s an event that seniors on fixed incomes or facing financial troubles surely welcome.

Forget the lights

Did you know you could hire someone to put up Christmas lights for you? Some yard signs posted on the corners of various intersections are touting this service.

The problem is, the last I checked, the holidays were over.

So, similar to a candidate running for office and leaving “vote for” signs out well past the election date, promoting a Christmas decorations service at this time turns the signs into a higher level of unsightly litter.

Just a thought, but I’d suggest taking them out and maybe using them again next year.

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