Naperville Park District gets $2.5 million for rec center project

Gov. Pat Quinn Monday announces the award of a $2.5 million grant for the Naperville Park District. | Submitted
Gov. Pat Quinn Monday announces the award of a $2.5 million grant for the Naperville Park District. | Submitted

The Naperville Park District will get a $2.5 million state grant to help pay for the creation of the new recreation center to be built on the city’s north side.

Gov. Pat Quinn announced the grant during an event in Aurora Monday.

The new facility will be built at 1760 Quincy Ave. and have about 80,000 square feet of recreation space. The estimated budget to build the activity center is $23 million, including $2 million used for the purchase of the land.

Park District Executive Director Ray McGury said both park officials and the park board were surprised but elated to learn the district had been awarded the funds.

“We apply for a … grant every year and evidently they felt we had a very compelling story,” McGury said. “When I talk to people around the state about Naperville, they know it is an affluent, very well-educated community. But when they learn that a community of this size only has 8,000 square feet of indoor (recreation) space, they just shake their heads.”

McGury said he believed the project caught the attention of those reviewing applications because of the ratio of current indoor recreational space and Naperville’s population as well as the project’s focus on providing a facility for seniors and those with special needs.

“I’ve been an advocate for those groups of people and I think that is one of the things that brought us to the top,” he said.

McGury admitted there may be some questions raised from the public about what the Park District might do with the additional funds, since there was already a plan in place for funding the $23 million project.

“I’m an advocate for satisfying the needs of as many of our citizens as possible as well as for the taxpayers,” McGury said. “In terms of what will happen now with the money we won’t use for this project, that’s the board’s decision. They could go in a number of directions from reducing the budget to holding on to it or deciding to fund other projects we’ve put on hold. It will be up to them to come up with a decision.”

Park Board President Mike Reilly said Tuesday following the announcement of the award that the board might revisit plans for the recreation center in light of “this nice influx of revenue.”

“When we originally drew up plans for the rec center, we had to scale them back in order to stay within budget,” he said. “Now with this money, we might be able to go back and look at the plans again and make this an even better facility.”

Reilly added that despite the suggestion, “any decision regarding the extra funds would be premature at this point.”

“In the first place, staff hasn’t had a chance to submit any options to us, and the commissioners haven’t had a chance to discuss it,” Reilly said. “Each of us probably has his own ideas about this and we need to open the conversation. But at this point you’re looking at money that funds 10 percent of the building and that’s huge.”

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