'Great ideas' surface for south Naperville plaza
An underused corner of the Frontier Sports Complex in Naperville someday could become one of its most happening spots if plans progress to create a plaza and gathering space.
A conceptual drawing completed for the field and pond south of the 95th Street Library imagines a multiuse space with a storybook-themed playground and outdoor classrooms, a band shell with amphitheater seating, a fitness lawn, sculptures, new pathways and a boat launch.
Of course, these are just ideas, Naperville Park District officials say -- and very early ones at that.
But the park district and partners including the Naperville Public Library and potentially the city of Naperville, Indian Prairie Unit District 204 and nearby businesses, are beginning to consider the ideas to determine possibilities.
"There's so many great ideas on paper," said Ray McGury, the park district's executive director. "But to try to pay for them is another thing."
To build the plaza as designed could cost $3.5 million to $4.5 million, according to Hitchcock Design Group, which prepared conceptual drawings and presented them to the park board Thursday.
Park board President Mike Reilly said the board would be unlikely to take on the entire cost alone. If that was the case, McGury said the district could start small and build a playground or a few path connections.
"I'd say something will happen there in the future," he said.
But officials are still thinking big and exploring whether partners can contribute to the cost to make a "more expansive" project more doable.
"If you don't think out of the box once in a while," Reily said, "you're not going to come up with any creative ideas."
The idea of turning the two acres south of the library into a usable outdoor space came from Karen Dunford, 95th Street Library manager.
Dunford said she's overheard library patrons complain about a lack of connections between the building and the park and shops nearby. She said a plaza could be the "missing puzzle piece" in the area and could allow things like outdoor storytimes for toddlers and outdoor homework tables for teens.
"If we had a park, I know that it would be filled with people all the time," Dunford said. "I'm just really excited about it. I think it's a great possibility."
Officials for years have said south Naperville needs a central community space -- not exactly like the Riverwalk, with all of its seating and sculptures near shopping downtown -- but a hub of activity to serve as a destination.
The 95th Street Library, which gets busy with Neuqua Valley High School students and mothers pushing young ones in strollers, already is a destination, Dunford said. But its appeal could be heightened if something more is done with what Dunford and Reilly called the "overgrown" site of the potential plaza.
"Here we have this 2-acre plot that's in the midst of a lot of activity," Reilly said. "An outside component to be a gathering place would seem to have some attraction."
Hitchcock Design Group plans to present the same conceptual drawings of the plaza to the library board during a meeting Thursday. Then the park district, library, city and District 204 can begin talks about how a plaza might fit into their plans.
"It gives us some good food for thought," Reilly said about the sketches of the potential plaza. "It's a start, and that's really all it is for now."
Frontier field improvementsThe 110-acre Frontier Sports Complex at 3415 Book Road in south Naperville is in the midst of a third phase of improvements to fields, irrigation, parking, bathrooms and pathways. Here's what has been completed so far and what's in store for this year.
2016: $1.4 million
• Regraded four multipurpose fields on the east side of the park
• Improved irrigation system
• Constructed bathroom building
• Built a west side parking lot
• Built an accessible path from the new parking lot to fields
• Regraded four more multipurpose fields
• Improved irrigation for those four fields and tied it into new irrigation system
• Regrading and irrigation of three east-side multipurpose fields
• Building more accessible trail connections from west side ball fields to paths and parking lots