By Marty Farmer
Since major renovations began in March of 2013, Oak Parkers have been eager to get a closer look at the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex. The wait is nearly over for curious residents, with the grand reopening of the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex slated for Saturday, June 14 from noon to 3 p.m.
People who attend the free event will be treated to a plethora of amenities, including access to the pool and Paul Hruby Ice Arena along with a luau party. When not taking a dip in the pool, lounging in a chair on the pool deck or skating a few laps around the ice rink, residents can visit other new areas of interest, including three activity rooms, a wading pool with a penguin slide and numerous spray play features, a customer service kiosk and spacious lobby area with free Wi-Fi.
The aforementioned new regulation-sized ice arena also features a new grandstand and five locker rooms. The ice arena, which has theatrical lighting and a sound system for ice shows/public skates, will operate year-round, providing open skating, figure skating and hockey lessons and leagues.
At the grand reopening, special appearances from Oak Park native and U.S. Olympian speed skater Emery Lehman, Olympic figure skater Aaron Parchem and the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew are planned. The rec complex's new mascots, Oakie and Parker, are also slated to make their debut to share in community fun.
Other options during the afternoon will include self-guided tours, musical entertainment, concessions from local vendors, plus giveaways, drawings and more.
A Cosmic Skate afterparty will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the ice arena. Admission is $10 ($5 with a season skating pass).
Discussions about renovating the Ridgeland Common facility and grounds (originally built in 1962) began in 2007. Major renovations for the park district's flagship facility started in March 2013.
"The renovation of the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex has been a community-driven process," said Diane Stanke, the park district's director of marketing and customer service. "I feel like this building really reflects what our community wanted. I'm excited for the community to see everything during the grand reopening."
Overall, the new Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex (RCRC) includes complete building reconstruction with expansion of the ice rink to official size (85-by-200 feet); a synthetic turf sports field with new lighting and fencing for multiple sports; separate entrances to the ice arena and pool with stroller parking at the pool entry leading directly to the pool deck; new children's wading pool with several water features; built-in stairs and an ADA-accessible aquatic lift for easy pool access for all patrons; three activity/meeting rooms, including a large activity room equipped with special flooring, ballet bars and mirrors for fitness and dance classes.
Additionally, most of the pool mechanicals were replaced. The main pool's shell remains in good condition and wasn't replaced as part of the renovation. Patrons will also enjoy a new pool deck, a raised picnic and lounge area, plenty of shade structures and outdoor lockers.