By Marty Farmer
When Irving School reopens next Monday, students will be thrilled to see welcomed additions in a multi-purpose, athletic field with synthetic turf and a new playground.
The synthetic field came to fruition via a joint effort by Oak Park elementary school District 97 and the Park District of Oak Park. D97 and the parks split the cost of the field construction, which was approximately $440,000. As part of the agreement, Irving students will use the field during school hours. The park district and permitted organizations, like the Oak Park AYSO and The Edge Soccer Club, can use the field during after school hours, on weekends and in the summer. Both the Oak Park AYSO and The Edge Soccer Club made financial contributions to the field.
The park district has purchased equipment to maintain the synthetic field at Irving, along with the Ridgeland Common synthetic turf scheduled to open spring 2014.
"A cooperative effort such as this one is a win-win-win situation," said Diane Stanke, the park district's director of marketing and customer service. "It benefits the school district, the park district and most importantly, the Oak Park community."
Currently, the park district has permitted AYSO and the Edge Soccer Club access to the soccer field. The park district also plans to provide programs at the site. According to Stanke, the first soccer games are scheduled for Sept. 7. Aside from soccer, the field is designed to accommodate several sports, in addition to serving as a durable year-round athletic surface that should limit injuries.
"Prior to the installation of the synthetic turf field, kids were playing on 80,000 square-feet of asphalt," said Laura Crawford, co-president of Irving's PTO. "Obviously, there were a lot of skinned knees, and it was far from an ideal surface for kids to play on. Irving is one of two schools in D97 that doesn't have park district land adjacent to it.
"We have 500 kids just playing on school property, so we need to make really good use of our square footage," Crawford added. "We knew we needed a good, durable field that wasn't dependent on weather so that's why we decided to push for synthetic turf."
For Crawford and the rest of the PTO members, replacing Irving's asphalt surface with a synthetic turf field is a welcomed change.
"The benefits of a soft, healthy surface for the kids and athletes are numerous," Crawford said. "In the past, [Irving] gym teachers were limited in what they could with kids in terms of sports on the blacktop. We have no concerns about the synthetic turf field and made it public since day 1 that this is the direction we wanted to go."
In addition to the synthetic turf field, Irving has a new playground which was funded exclusively by D97. The new playground features a climbing dome with ropes and two spinners. A standard post and deck is set up for kids to climb steps and then traverse over a walkway before going down a slide.
The playground is also handicap-accessible for special needs kids.