Naperville parks hopes state can help fund activity center
Naperville Park District will apply for a state grant that could fund roughly 10 percent of the cost to build an indoor activity center at Quincy Avenue and Fort Hill Drive.
The district is seeking up to $2.5 million from the Park and Recreation Construction program administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources after $25 million of available funding was announced in January, said Sue Omanson, community development manager.
Staff members say the park board wants to seek all the grants it can to help build the $23 million activity center, which will include basketball courts, a walking and jogging track, a fitness center, a cafe, meeting rooms and multipurpose spaces, among other amenities still to be determined.
The state grant process is highly competitive, Omanson said. The district's 2010 application for funding to help with Knoch Knolls Nature Center construction, for example, was rejected from among 280 requests.
As staff members prepare this year's pitch for funding to put toward the activity center, the district has held five focus groups to help further define plans for the new indoor recreation space.
Frank Parisi, with activity center designer Williams Architects of Itasca, led the meetings to gather feedback from parents, senior citizens, athletes, veterans, people with special needs and their families.
Throughout the focus groups, as well as a series of open houses last month, park officials say they've heard strong support for basketball and volleyball courts, cardio equipment, dance studios, a walking and jogging track, a gymnastics room, an indoor playground and classrooms.
"There was a lot of energy and enthusiasm around some of the active elements," said Brad Wilson, director of recreation.
But during the focus groups, Wilson said a desire for togetherness and convenience also emerged.
"We heard a lot in regard to having a building where families can come and do things together, where there are a number of activities under one roof," Wilson said.
Ray McGury, the park district's executive director, said residents want to be able to take their children to basketball practice or a gymnastics lesson at a place where they also can stay and get something done, whether it be a workout or a quick scan through the email inbox.
"We really are trying to maximize the time that people can spend together as a family because it's tough to do that today," McGury said.
The center will include some type of cafe where visitors can grab a coffee or simply sit and de-stress.
"You only think of the physical aspect of recreation," McGury said. "There's a huge health aspect of recreation -- people overlook that."
The activity center will be an 80,000-square-foot building on a 5-acre lot, and the park district aims to open it by fall 2016.