Despite neighbors’ opposition, pickleball courts at Elk Grove park not yet spiked

The Elk Grove Park District’s plan to install pickleball courts as part of a $4 million transformation of a park has been blocked by homeowners who surround the public space.

But the district’s initial serve could soon return.

The upgrade project underway at Marshall Park includes a new playground, splash pad, shelter, restrooms, basketball court, walking path and lighting for the existing soccer field. What was to have been an open lawn — on initial plans presented to neighbors last year — became a lighted pickleball area with six courts on amended site plans later submitted to village hall.

Revised plans for Marshall Park show six pickleball courts, but the Elk Grove Park District has since removed the courts from the project in face of neighborhood opposition. Courtesy of Elk Grove Park District

Neighbors who complained about the potential for noise and congestion at the park at 711 Chelmsford Lane led the village’s plan commission to vote 6-2 against the pickleball proposal last month, prompting park district leaders to withdraw the request and go back to the drawing board. The village board later approved a special use permit for four 60-foot tall light poles around the soccer field.

District officials say they’re evaluating other locations for pickleball courts, but admit their search could return to Marshall Park, seen as an ideal location because of its 68-space parking lot.

“We don’t typically spend $4 million on a renovation of a park. It’s more around $200,000,” said Tom Cooke, one of the five elected commissioners on the park district board. “So, we really did go all out to try and make this an exceptional park that would not only be great for the residents that live around it, but would also improve home values and be a real gem in the community.”

Cooke acknowledged that pickleball wasn’t part of the initial plans for Marshall Park, but then came a park district community survey last year in which pickleball was ranked in the top five of 32 items residents would like to see in the parks.

Elk Grove Park District Commissioner Tom Cooke

Cooke, chair of the district’s capital committee, remains a major proponent of pickleball at Marshall Park.

“We know pickleball is growing very rapidly. It’s become very popular,” Cooke said.

The six-acre site was acquired by the park district in 2018, and a building that once housed an Elk Grove Township Elementary District 59 school and later Elk Grove Township’s day care center was razed.

  Marshall Park in Elk Grove Village is undergoing some $4 million worth of renovations. Neighbors fear the transformation will turn the passive park into a communitywide destination. Joe Lewnard/

Bill Lavin, who lives next door to the park, said the district is trying to make the park a “destination.” Pickleball aside, he opposes the soccer field lighting that officials say will be on until 9 p.m. primarily in the spring and fall. They initially wanted the lights on until 10 p.m.

“Dawn to dusk is an idea that’s been in this park for 60-plus years,” Lavin said. “And now, we want to move to dawn to 9 (p.m.). But when’s it going to stop?”

Added Connie Cundiff, who lives across the street: “Our community had no sense that it was going to be turned from a neighborhood park to a community park, and that’s back on the table.”

  A new splash pad, shelter and restrooms are being installed at Marshall Park in Elk Grove Village. Joe Lewnard/

The park district currently has six outdoor courts at its Rainbow Falls Waterpark on the east side of town, on what had been inline hockey rinks. Three indoor tennis courts are used for pickleball at the Jack A. Claes Pavilion in the center of town. Six new courts on the WGN radio transmitter property on the west side of town could be two to three years away, park district Executive Director Ben Curcio said.

A rendering shows one of the three data center buildings proposed on the south end of WGN radio’s transmitter site in Elk Grove Village. Six pickleball courts to the north are also part of the redevelopment plans. Courtesy of Elk Grove Village

For now, Curcio and his staff are exploring options for where else to put pickleball in Elk Grove.

Converting tennis courts is on the table, but Cooke said those who enjoy playing that sport on lighted courts at night would be displaced. And an indoor pickleball facility — with heating, air conditioning and plumbing — would be costly, he said.

“As commissioners, we have to look at the big picture for all the residents, not just the few that live around the park,” Cooke said.

Fellow park board Commissioner Bill O’Malley said he hasn’t made a decision and is in a “wait-and-see mode.”

“I’ve challenged staff … make sure you exhaust every other opportunity to put pickleball elsewhere,” O’Malley said. “When they tell me they can’t put it anywhere else, I’ll then listen to Marshall Park again.”

The rest of the ongoing park renovations, which started last year, are expected to be complete by Memorial Day.

The ongoing upgrade project at Marshall Park includes a new playground, splash pad, shelter, restrooms, basketball court, walking path and lighting for the existing soccer field. Courtesy of Elk Grove Park District
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