By Marty Farmer
Although the highly anticipated openings of the Paul Hruby Ice Arena and the pool at Ridgeland Common won't happen until mid-June, Oak Parkers can check out the new synthetic turf field and reopened dog park this weekend. Both amenities will debut Saturday at an event hosted by the Park District of Oak Park. The park district has arranged free parking at Pilgrim Church across Lake Street from the dog park and sports field opening. Giveaways will also be given to the first 100 attendees at each event.
Ridgeland Common is located at Lake Street and Ridgeland Avenue.
The day kicks off at 10 a.m. as Oak Park dog owners and their dogs are invited to take part in a ceremonial ribbon cutting. At 10:30 a.m., residents are invited to run through the banner on the new synthetic turf field. The synthetic turf sports field, the first one exclusively owned by the park district, features brand new lights, shade structures over the player and spectator benches and brand new batting cages (the first batting cages in Oak Park's parks system).
The celebration rolls on at 11 a.m. with the annual Pitch, Hit and Run competition for children between the ages of 7 and 14. Onsite registration and a copy of each participant's birth certificate for the free event is required to take part in the competition, with boys and girls taking part separately in four different age groups: 7-8, 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 and winners advancing to sectional competition.
"It's a great feeling to provide a new dog park and a new synthetic turf sports field for the use and enjoyment of our community," said Diane Stanke, the park district's customer service and marketing director. "It's certainly a welcomed addition to our parks system."
"We do know our dog park users are anxious to get back to Ridgeland Common and the Baseball Association is eager to get their season started at our new facility."
In other Ridgeland Common developments, the underlayment for the ice rink was poured in late February, a process which took approximately 10 hours as 40 cement trucks made deliveries. The installation of rink tubing and dry wall, along with painting and roof work are either completed or in progress.
When the ice arena opens in June, it will serve residents as a year-round facility. Skate lessons, open skate, figure skating, adult and youth hockey and hockey camps are some of the activities planned for the ice rink.
"One common remark we hear frequently is that people are excited about year-round ice," Stanke said. "We are offering skating camps this summer for the first time and the response has been good."
Overall, the Ridgeland Common renovation remains on track. The Park Foundation of Oak Park is organizing a special event for June 12 to celebrate the opening of the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex.
The official opening of the facility will be held on June 14. Residents can also look forward to a luau themed-event and the introduction of Ridgeland Common's mascots at this skate and swim event.
"Community participation in this planning process has been overwhelming," Stanke said. "It's a great feeling to see our plans become a reality. We hope this facility exceeds our residents' expectations and that they enjoy these new facilities for many years to come."