New gymnastics center offers more space, programs

Park district hears praise about Lake Street location

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter

By Marty Farmer

Sports Editor

Since the Oct. 5 grand opening of the Park District of Oak Park's Gymnastics and Recreation Center (21 Lake St.), the staff, program participants and their parents, and even a handful of adults taking a class, have quickly discovered there's no place like their new GRC home.

Previously located at 218 Madison St. in Oak Park, groundbreaking for the new gymnastics and recreation digs began on Oct. 4, 2012. Almost a year to that date, the grand opening included a ribbon-cutting ceremony, a brief video presentation about the new GRC, and an open house, including facility tours, gymnastics activities for children, and a tent in the parking lot with refreshments.

Although GRC has only been open approximately six weeks, the expanded space and program offerings have yielded an immediate spike in enrollment numbers.

"We were able to accommodate at least 300 more participants starting the week of Oct. 20," said Jamie Lapke, program and operations manager. "We currently have over 1,000 students registered for our programs coming through the facility every week.

"The reaction of people who come in here is like 'wow'. I think people are pretty amazed at the transformation from what we had at the previous location to what we have here. We feel like now we truly have a building that matches our program, which has always been very well regarded."

The 18,670-square-foot facility includes two foam pits (one at previous gym), a 40-foot in-ground tumble trac, two climbing ropes and two rings towers, a trampoline, a 50 x 18-foot spring floor, and dedicated preschool bars and beam areas.

"This is a really impressive place," said Oak Park resident Amy Henderson, whose 4-year-old son Oliver is taking a gymnastics class at GRC. "It's bright and clean and everything is new, with lots of room to move around. We used to go to the gymnastics center on Madison [Street] and this is much nicer."

Jennifer Malone, another Oak Park resident and the music director at Oak Park's School of Rock, recently visited GRC with her 3-year-old son, Desmond.

"I heard about the GRC through its grand opening and then Amy [Henderson] posted something about it on Facebook," Malone said. "It's our first time coming here. What an awesome place. It's perfect for letting active kids burn off some energy."

Program offerings are diverse, ranging from parent and child classes, along with assorted gymnastics, recreation and dance classes for children of all ages, and even an adult class. Popular open gyms are also offered multiple times a week. Birthday parties are another amenity for ages 3-16 on weekends, and other park district programmers have used the second-floor studio rooms to provide fitness classes and even a circus arts class. For a complete listing of programs, visit

In addition to Lapke, GRC has four full-time principal coach/program specialists and 20 part-time instructors.

"The extra space allows for more classes going on simultaneously, particularly during our most popular times between 4-8 p.m.," Lapke said. "We're trying to offer different classes each session to attract more people within the community. Gymnastics continues to be a popular program in high demand."

Email: Twitter: @OakParkSports

Reader Comments

20 Comments - Add Your Comment

Note: This page requires you to login with Facebook to comment.

Comment Policy

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 23rd, 2013 8:43 AM

Looking at it. The park dist. does a lot for the kids. Lots of money being spent. When do we see something that is for seniors!!!!

lived here  

Posted: November 22nd, 2013 10:22 PM

There park district provides lots of services at no fees (playgrounds, skate park) and some that charge fees but not enough to cover costs (swimming pools?) so they also need to have some programs that make money, even those the fees charged are less than would be charged by a for-profit business.

Adam Smith  

Posted: November 22nd, 2013 9:41 PM

Some programs (not facilities) break even or "make a profit." Revenue producing facilities generally get back 70% of the actual cost, the other 30% comes from taxes. It's the way it should be and the Oak Park Park District does an overall very god job.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 22nd, 2013 6:06 PM

According to page 8 of the 2013 budget, 60% of the Park District's operations are funded by property taxes. Here's the link...

Adam your are parcialy incorrect  

Posted: November 22nd, 2013 3:00 PM

Many parts of the Park District of OP are designed to produce revenue ie. pools, rink, gymnastics, softball. Only some of the activities are tax supported ie senior, preschool classes

To Concerned Taxpayer  

Posted: November 22nd, 2013 2:56 PM

The programs are run by user fees, not tax dollars. Rent one of the community centers or even the Conservatory. Those are supported by tax $

Adam Smith  

Posted: November 21st, 2013 5:16 AM

Newsflash - park districts aren't designed to make money, they offset costs with user fees and the balance is tax dollars. Should we gate Scoville Park and the tot lots and charge admission?

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 10:40 PM

Because the center charges fees doesn't necessarily relate to making money as in showing a profit. There are ongoing expenses related to running this. After a little over a month since opening, it is probably too early to predict whether it is a money maker or a money loser.


Posted: November 20th, 2013 8:08 PM

The gymnastic center is one of the few park district programs that makes money. And, as someone who (OMG) lives east of Ridgeland, it is wonderful to have a beautiful high quality facility in the neighborhood. As to the cost of parties, renting a facility is never cheap but for what you get, $300 is not out of line compared to what I remember paying when my kids were young.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 5:33 PM

According to OPPD annual report (page 23) the total taxpayer expense was $5,803,721. OP resident #545 lets get your facts straight.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 5:16 PM

OP #545, and the cost of purchasing the property, the cost of demolition of the building on the property, not to include the loss of taxes on the previous property are certainly not included in your build cost of the new Gymnastics center. Looks good but I wish a private enterprise had undertaken this instead of the park dist.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 4:40 PM

OP, your numbers are not accurate. The GRC cost $ 3.9 M to build, & Ridgeland cost $22M. The PDOP will be able to pay the debt service & capital costs through its current budget. No tax increases. Yes, new things cost money, but the PDOP has been a good steward of the community. What can't yet be measured will be improvements to east Lake St because the GRC is there. That will take time, but as a neighbor I'm glad it was built, even though my kids never used it.

Henry from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 9:59 AM

$150/ft for new construction? Maybe for a strip mall with non-union labor. Not for a public top-of-the-line athletic facility. And that is unabashedly the goal, and I love it and I'm happy to pay taxes for it. If you want a no-frills suburb with super-low taxes, you gotta move. The vaaaast majority of OP'ers stand behind this kind of project over and over again. Cost on a party has to include staff, and you're not using minimum wage high schoolers here like at My Gym.


Posted: November 20th, 2013 8:29 AM

This program really took off after Suzy left. Awesome!


Posted: November 20th, 2013 6:12 AM

$6M for 18,000 square feet is very, very high. cost per swuare foot new construction is $150 ish...$29MM for Ridgeland. OP tax payers are screwed.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 4:23 AM

Concerned - It is a lot to pay. It is also a lot to ask all the rest of the taxpayers to pick up the expense. I for one would never have elected to have so much of our tax money spent on this project. Now you want taxpayers to subsidize your parties too. Good grief!

Concerned taxpayer  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 12:53 AM

Yes, we can have a party somewhere else, but I was surprised the fees were so high for a public taxpayer supported place. This is not a for- profit. I still believe $300+ for a party is crazy.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 12:35 AM

If you have only 10 kids, then yes, it's $30 a child, because the minimum is $300 (for Ages 6-15). Then the 11th to 30th child are $10/each.

Speedway from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: November 20th, 2013 12:02 AM

There is always the option of taking your party to someplace that is more inline with your income.

Concerned Taxpayer from Oak park  

Posted: November 19th, 2013 11:05 PM

We love the new center, but the birthday party fees are crazy. $30.00 a child is a bit too much for a govt entity and prices us out. They are booked because the space is incredible, but many oak Parker's can not pay the high fees for parties.

Facebook Connect

Answer Book 2017

To view the full print edition of the Wednesday Journal 2017 Answer Book, please click here.

Quick Links

Sign-up to get the latest news updates for Oak Park and River Forest.

MultimediaContact us
Submit Letter To The Editor
Place a Classified Ad