Speaking up

The Naperville Park District will vote to acquire this vacant land at Quincy Avenue and Fort Hill Drive for an indoor sports facility. | Susan Frick Carlman~Sun-Times Media
The Naperville Park District will vote to acquire this vacant land at Quincy Avenue and Fort Hill Drive for an indoor sports facility. | Susan Frick Carlman~Sun-Times Media

Darren Norkett of Naperville moved here from London, England, six years ago with his family and says he couldn’t be happier about the Park District’s plans to develop a new activity center at the corner of Fort Hill Drive and Quincy Avenue next to the Player’s Indoor Sports Center.

“I think the focus the community has here on kids and health and wellness is fantastic,” Norkett said as he gazed at large informational posters the Park District had on display Saturday morning at the Player’s complex. “I hope they’ll expand the indoor soccer facilities in addition to the ones they have here.”

Norkett was one of dozens of people who stopped by Saturday during the first of three open public meetings scheduled to allow residents to offer input about the Activity Center. The facility will be located next to the Player’s facility on a 5.2-acre parcel and occupy up to 80,000 square feet of space.

The estimated budget to build the activity center is $23 million, including $2 million for the purchase of the land.

Park District Director of Recreation Programs Brad Wilson said the early turnout was strong.

“We’ve received a lot of positive comments about our plans to do this more than suggestions about what people would like to see,” Wilson said. “Many of the comments have been about providing a walking and jogging track for seniors instead of their having to go to the Fox Valley Mall, as well as feedback about the special needs community and having access to gym space.”

Park Commissioner Ron Ory said park officials are currently “in the listening mode and looking for feedback.”

“We’re open-minded and have heard for a long time from our residents that we needed more indoor space,” Ory said. “This is a good starting point following the surveys and focus groups that we’ve used.”

Wilson said visitors Saturday were encouraged to place circle-shaped stickers on a poster board that included some of the more requested features suggested thus far. The most popular items included activity courts for various sports, a running/jogging/walking track, and an indoor children’s playground.

Park District Executive Director Ray McGury said it “would be easier just to design a facility and build it” in accordance with the budget, but that park staff “is paid to provide servant-leadership.”

“We’ve had a great turnout so far, and while we know there are people that would like us to do a whole lot more, we do everything within our budget,” McGury said. “We need the public’s input, and while some may be disappointed in the final project, we want to reach a consensus about offering the most we can within our means.”

One request Saturday involved an indoor track big enough to hold track meets, which McGury said would be impossible given the building’s footprint.

Loren Schepers of Naperville said he was more interested in the building’s operational costs and environmental impact than what it actually contained.

“We moved here a few years ago after living in Colorado, and we used solar power to heat our house at an annual cost of less than $500 a year,” Schepers said. “I wanted to know about energy conservation and sustainability and what features they were planning to incorporate in making this a ‘green’ facility.”

Schepers said he was hoping the facility could be a “zero energy” project that could produce as much energy as it uses.

“I was told that outcome wasn’t likely, but anything they could do to make it more efficient would help,” he said.

Terry Jelinek of Naperville said that the activity center was “something Naperville really needs” and that he supports “expanding on what we already have.”

“I welcome this addition, and I feel that the more activities we have for people, the better our community will be,” he said. “I’m especially interested in there being more things for kids to do.”

The Park District plans a second meeting this Tuesday, Jan. 21 at the Alfred Rubin Riverwalk Community Center, 305 W. Jackson Ave., from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wilson said the meeting is geared more towards seniors but is open to anyone who would like to offer comments on the project.