Naperville Park District begins biggest project yet: $24 million activity center
Fort Hill facility touted as a place for all in Naperville
The largest project in Naperville Park District history, building a $24 million, 80,000-square-foot indoor activity center, is underway.
Park officials, city leaders and state legislators blessed the Fort Hill Activity Center Thursday afternoon during a groundbreaking in which they highlighted the facility's value for seniors, families and people with special needs.
"Today we're starting the celebration of this exciting first-ever large-scale project for the entire Naperville community," park board President Mike Reilly said at the rain-soaked and puddle-muddled site at Fort Hill Drive and Quincy Avenue. "As we've talked with many residents over the past year and a half, we've heard how needed and how wanted the activity center is."
The facility will have a fitness center, a walking track, a cafe staffed by people with special needs, a gymnastics area, an indoor playground, multipurpose rooms, and gym space for basketball, volleyball, badminton, pickleball, or what Reilly called "other creative uses." It's expected to open by fall 2016.
Seniors want to walk indoors without having to be mall-walkers at Westfield Fox Valley in Aurora, senior volunteer Karen Courney said.
People with special needs want a place to be active without requiring someone to drive them to another town, said Michelle Anderson, 20, of Naperville, a Western DuPage Special Recreation Association participant who has Down syndrome.
"The activity center will allow us to get exercise and spend time having fun with friends who live in Naperville," Anderson said. "I love my dance and yoga classes, but the walking track will be a safe and easy way for getting exercise all year long."
Parents want a place where children can let off steam and adults can get some exercise, too, said Cathy Subber, owner of Naperville Moms Network.
"For me, what this center means is community and connection and unplugging your kids and letting them play and run around while you get some good exercise in," Subber said. "I think that's really important."
The park district cited community interest surveys and a lack of indoor space when officials bought 5.2 acres for the activity center in November 2013.
The district spent $2 million on land and $1.2 million on designs from Williams Architects in Itasca before approving a $20.9 million construction management contract with Wight Construction Inc. in February 2014.
Last fall, the park board expanded the construction management contract to $24 million to include a larger multipurpose room, a cafe and an indoor playground after officials were told they would get a $2.5 million state grant for construction. When state grants were suspended last month, officials determined they still have the money to complete the project by using reserves and delaying $400,000 in work on the Riverwalk Eatery.
After Thursday's groundbreaking, the park board approved several contracts totaling $1.4 million within the $24 million budget. They also agreed to pay Wight an additional $124,000 because of extra work caused by adding the cafe and indoor playground.
Work on the Fort Hill Activity Center proves the park district has come a long way since it built its first indoor facility -- the Barn Recreation Center -- in 1966, state Rep. Grant Wehrli said. The Barn now is scheduled to be demolished once the new activity center is complete.