Addressing indoor space needs has been a thorn in the side of the Naperville Park District for more than a decade.
The history includes a few failed proposals and a decade of community survey requests with a number of people asking for a facility, district officials said.
All of that will change next month as park commissioners will vote to close on the sale of five acres the district plans to acquire at Quincy Avenue and Fort Hill Drive. The plan is to build an 80,000 square-foot activity center there that Park District Executive Director Ray McGury said would be “accessible to all residents in the city.”
The new facility would cost between $20 million and $23 million to build, district officials said. They said the facility would be paid for using current revenue streams and would not require a referendum to raise money.
He said he hoped it would meet the needs of seniors, youngsters, families, and those with special needs.
“For many years the Park District has been challenged with providing year-round indoor recreation activities due to limited facilities,” McGury said. “Despite the district’s best efforts to provide space through partnerships with school districts, retrofitting existing facilities, and leasing space from the city of Naperville and private entities, the need for more space still remains.”
He said the district is not looking to build something fancy.
“We’re not looking for a Taj Mahal with marble floors and all that, but something that reflects living within our means,” he said.
Possible amenities at the facility could include an indoor walking track that McGury said seniors could use for free, along with three basketball/activity courts, basic workout equipment and a small café where folks could socialize before or after using the facility.
However, McGury said that despite some discussion, the project’s plans at this time “are a blank sheet of paper.”
“This is not something we’re going to shove down people’s throats,” McGury said. “There are no plans at this point and we’re going to design this with input from the community. We realize everyone might not get everything he or she wants, but we’re going to do the best we can for the greatest number of people.”
McGury said the $36 million Nike Park facility that was proposed in 2006 was a mistake. He thinks the up to $23 million budgeted for the new building is more fiscally responsible given the current economy.
In accordance with keeping the budget down, an indoor pool will not be included at the site. An indoor pool would add up to $5 million in extra cost as well as $500,000 a year for maintenance.
“We’ve moved various projects around in order to put this thing together, and this gives us an opportunity to serve our mission which is to provide kids and families with a place to go and be introduced to various activities,” he said. “Once kids reach 8 or 9 years old, a lot of them move on to travel teams if they want to continue a sport. Not everyone in Naperville is interested, however, in being a Division I athlete, but they still need a place to hang out.”
McGury also said the facility could also address the plight of the 2,500 to 3,000 special needs individuals in Naperville who currently have to travel to Carol Stream, Wheaton or Glen Ellyn to find facilities.
“In a community of this size, there’s no reason why someone should come home from work late on the train and they have to drive a family member to one of our neighboring towns to be able to do an indoor activity,” he said. “To me, this is something that should have been taken care of long before now.”
If everything goes smoothly for the project, the new facility could open in 2016.