By Devin Rose
A lot of moving parts remain in the tentative plans for relocating programs currently held at Ridgeland Common while the facility is closed next year for renovations.
In a meeting last week with Wednesday Journal, Park District Executive Director Jan Arnold and spokeswoman Diane Stanke said they are aiming to accommodate as many people as possible even though activities will be moved to different venues when Ridgeland closes in March. It's expected to reopen in May 2014.
"As long as we're able to accommodate, we will," said Arnold, who laid out the details so far on where programs could go. She and Stanke said the closure is only temporary, so residents will be able to return to a facility with an expanded ice rink, pool improvements and new lighting and field fencing.
This week, Jenny Berni, the park district's aquatic and rink services manager and leader of the transition plan, is meeting with staff at Fenwick High School to discuss use of their pool for swimming lessons. Arnold said their priority during the pool closure will be teaching kids to swim, but they'll only have the use of Rehm Pool next summer. She said spring lessons would allow the kids to be able to use the pool by summer.
Berni will also meet with staff at Oak Park and River Forest High School in early October to talk about the school sharing their pools with the village's two swim teams. Currently, the teams alternate between OPRF, Fenwick, Ridgeland and Rehm Pool. Scheduling will be finalized by the end of November, they hope, so the park district can advertise lessons, Arnold said.
She added that the play apparatus at Rehm will be improved and changing space will be added for families. Staff is looking to accommodate day campers at the pool in the morning, so the public can use the pool in the afternoon. The park district board has already approved keeping the price of passes the same for next summer.
The ice rink will also be closed for one season. Arnold said the park district has reached out to Franklin Park, where the adult hockey program might be able to play. The priority, however, will be kids travel hockey, and if the park district can get multiple time slots, the adults will be added as well. They're talking to Franklin Park, Oak Lawn and Bensenville about pricing to accommodate the part district's skating lessons and whether Oak Park residents will have to pay the non-resident fees, Arnold said.
They've reached out to the same three places about accommodating public skate but remain hopeful that the weather will provide for an outdoor rink at Longfellow Park.
The sports camp held at Ridgeland could go to either Longfellow or Fox parks. Baseball will be moved to Lindberg or Longfellow parks and Stevenson Park will accommodate softball and kickball. The east baseball field at Ridgeland will be used to stage construction materials while the west field will be open for adult baseball and softball. If an alternate option to install a turf field at Ridgeland moves forward, the west field will close in August. Arnold said a decision would be made about the turf field by January or early February. Staff is looking into additional field space as well.
The dog park will close in March, Arnold said, leaving the one at Maple Park available. The indoor playground at Ridgeland will move to Barrie Park and could stay there permanently. Aikido martial arts may move to Stevenson.
They will advertise and distribute RFQs in October and receive bids by January 2013. Construction is scheduled to start March 18. The cost estimate after the design development phase came in at $23.2 million, though alternate improvements, like a $3.7 million synthetic turf field, could increase that.
Meanwhile, park district staff will work with other entities as they put together a transition plan for programs while Ridgeland Common is closed. Since this is being worked out long before the relocated programs would start up, Arnold said none of the groups have been able to firm up their availability because they don't know their schedules yet.
"We're asking people in some cases a year and a half in advance," she said.
The pool will close in a few weeks and won't reopen next year. The ice rink will close after the annual ice show in March and will reopen in the fall of 2014, Arnold said. Letters were sent out the last couple of weeks to parents of kids in the travel hockey league to keep them updated on the project. Arnold said they want to remind parents that they're looking for ways to keep as many teams together as possible.