Naperville parks opening $7.8 million maintenance facility
They're used to a glorified shed, but now employees of Naperville Park District's trades, fleet, parks and police departments have a place specifically designed for doing their work.
The district's Knoch Park Central Maintenance Facility will open with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, featuring 27,000 square feet of vehicle bays and storage lockers, operations offices and fueling stations that are built to function for the next 50 years, Executive Director Ray McGury said.
The $7.8 million maintenance center replaced the Barn Recreation Center and the old central shop on 2.2 acres within Knoch Park at 427 Martin Ave. Although the well-loved teen hangout from decades past is no more, visitors to the maintenance facility can notice its presence.
The Barn's 1965 cornerstone is lodged in the new building's interior wall, below an interpretive sign explaining the former recreation center's history. The 26-foot-tall ceiling of the main meeting room and the red paint and wood paneling also give a slight farming feel.
"It has the design motif of a barn," said Eric Shutes, director of planning.
The building's southwest wing is dedicated to the park police, a small department of two full-time and 30 part-time officers that is gaining more cubicles, new lockers and storage spaces and two TVs where live surveillance footage from cameras at parks will be shown.
Nearby is the parks department's vehicle and equipment bay, the home base for roughly 30 employees who maintain the grounds and landscapes at parks near downtown Naperville, including Knoch Park, Sportsman's Park, the Ron Ory Community Garden Plots and the Bill Young Athletic Fields, among others.
Kevin Finnegan, director of parks, said the department is moving in equipment and materials and plans to start operating out of the new facility next week. Thankfully, he said, the project remained on schedule despite a rainy April.
The trades and fleet departments each have their own bay as well, areas where vehicles can pull through for easy loading and unloading of things such as redwood boards to fix park signs. Seven full-time and five part-time trades workers will use the space, along with three full-time mechanics, Finnegan said.
In between the bays is a custodial area with a washing machine and dryer along with new locker rooms for workers to shower and change. Finnegan said the old central shop had one shower for use by everyone, which hasn't been ideal as the workforce has diversified.
"We increasingly have more women on our staff now," he said.
Park users will be able to stop in the new maintenance facility to use the restrooms, which are just inside the main entrance on the west side, even on evenings and weekends. The facility also includes 50 public parking spaces on the west side and a meeting room that can be available for use by community clubs.
After two major openings in recent years -- Knoch Knolls Nature Center in 2014 and Fort Hill Activity Center in 2016 -- McGury said the park district needed a better hub for the operations that keep its amenities in top shape.
"It's important to take care of all of this, day in and day out," McGury said. "To take care of what you have, we're set up well now for the next 50 years."