Rec centers could thrive with investment in creativity

Opinion

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The seven Oak Park rec centers have such potential to be fun-filled, welcoming neighborhood meeting places. Neighborhood club houses are far from being an outdated model of recreation. Today, in fact, most forward-looking new communities construct neighborhoods around a walkable clubhouse.

But yet, Oak Park's rec centers are empty, dingy, and closed most of the time.

One idea I'd like to propose: A subscription model usage of the rec centers.

The park district could raise revenue by offering "memberships" in the rec centers?#34;making them into more of a "clubhouse" model. Of course, since the centers were built with tax dollars, guest passes would be available. (The pools were built with tax dollars, but we still have to buy a "pool pass)". This would generate revenue and give local people more of a feeling of ownership of the places. The end result would probably get programming in there that people actually want.

As a busy mom, I really enjoyed sending my kids to Carroll center over the past few years.

But this fall, I just couldn't bring myself to sign them up for the creatively bankrupt class offerings: Eat Cookies right Before Dinner class and Play Disney Princess for $5 an Hour class. What happened to Draw your own Comic Strip or Build Model Rockets?

The park board seems to have their knives out for the rec centers. "We should not be spending money on centers that might not be used in 20 years," said Commissioner Jacques Conway last week.

But there's nothing wrong with the rec center model! In 20 years, a fun-filled, safe neighborhood clubhouse will still be an asset to a community. What we'll really be laughing about in 20 years are the spas and climbing walls that out-of-town consultants Leisure Vision told us are "unmet recreational needs."

If the buildings are empty, it's because someone is not doing their job!

Jean Lotus
Oak Park

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