Gym space, programs for kids sought at new activity center

<p>File photo.</p>

File photo.

The Naperville Park District spent an entire day over the weekend gathering public input about its proposed new activity center on the north side of the city.

The district offered five focus group sessions at the Fry Property Building on 95th Street in south Naperville.

The 45-minute sessions centered on a parents’ group, followed by seniors, those with special needs, athletic groups and an open session for everyone else.

Frank Parisi, principal of Williams Architects, the firm which will design the building, led the discussion sessions aided by Park District Executive Director Ray McGury, Director of Recreation Brad Wilson, and other Park District staff members.

Before the first session, which was attended by about 20 parents, Parisi said the focus groups were being offered “to allow stakeholders the chance to share ideas with one another.”

“With this format, you have people who share common interests and can bounce ideas off of one another,” Parisi noted. “This allows us to hear from specific demographics and hear what their needs and ideas are.”

Saturday’s first session was a lively one, as parents spoke about a variety of needs and issues ranging from daycare and child supervision to specific programs and activities that they would like to see at the new building. The list included an indoor track on the second floor of the facility, weights and exercise equipment, a parking garage, exercise classes, and even food service.

Tammy Lanbin of Naperville said she was looking for a gymnastics area that would be more accessible.

“Naperville already has some of the best facilities for families, but I think we need more activity space for kids that are in need of something besides a play area,” she said.

Christina Leggio said she has a 2-year-old and plans to have more children and is looking ahead to the time when her children are older.

“This is more of an informational meeting for me in terms of what the Park District has or might offer as we haven’t used a lot of the facilities yet,” she said. “We use the forest preserves and the library, but with better weather coming, I’m fantasizing about what we’ll do this summer.”

The question of adding a pool was once again raised, and McGury responded by saying pools were generally expensive amenities whose revenue “was often below the line in the red, and not in the black.”

“We only have two revenue engines, unlike the city which has 13 and the county which has 26,” McGury said. “Our income only comes from property taxes and activity fees, and we don’t have the revenue to support a pool which would cost up to $500,000 a year just in operational costs.”

McGury again stressed that park officials “are comfortable with saying there will be a $10 raise per year in taxes which will cover the facility as well as all of our programs” and that adding a pool could mean asking for additional funds.

Gym space continues to be high on residents’ wish lists, a sentiment that was echoed by Parisi, who said that previous projects he has worked on never seem to include enough open space.

“If we’ve built three gyms for a project, people later say we should have built five,” he said.

The senior group which began shortly after 10 a.m. included about a dozen residents. Jeannine Mlynski said she was hoping for a senior craft area and that she was also excited about the activity center’s location at 1760 Quincy Ave.

“This center would be very close to my house,” she said. “I think we need more facilities for everyone.”

Richard Hutter, 78, said with seniors living longer, more options are needed for them to maintain an active life.

“People today are living longer and you have to give them something to do to keep them active,” he said. “Personally, I’m a tennis player and would like to see some indoor courts, but I’m here more as an advocate for people staying active.”

Wilson said input from Saturday’s meeting would be presented at a Park Board workshop meeting scheduled for Feb. 27.

“The board will be updated on all the input we’ve received and we’re looking at some preliminary drawings from the Williams’ group sometime later this spring or early summer,” he said.

McGury said construction was expected to begin in March of next year, with the facility scheduled to open in the fall of 2016.