In response to Michael J. Lennox’s questions [Why does the park district need a larger space? Viewpoints, Nov. 1]: The park district hasn’t recently outgrown its building at 218 Madison-it barely fit in the first place. The park district administration is not the largest user of the building; the larger users are the Gymnastics Center and the Building & Grounds Department.

The Gymnastics Center is the only program of the Park District that brings in more revenue than it costs. This fall there are over 800 students in a program that’s at full capacity. There are currently an additional 300 children on waitlists to get into a gymnastics class, a reality for 8 of the last 12 years, and reflective of the quality program the staff provides. The Gymnastics Center could instantly grow over 37 percent and only just keep up with demand. To my mind, that’s a good investment of referendum dollars.

Last year the program had a scare when one of the main roof trusses failed and threatened to fall into the building. According to the architects, there are other trusses and a myriad other problems associated with an aging brick and frame building that need addressing. All of the issues are well summarized on the park district’s website under the Future Plans heading.

Part of the conundrum for the park district board is that the building also houses the Building & Grounds Department. I attended one of the public planning meetings that was held in the Building & Grounds’ garage and was astounded that they were able to cram as much as they do into the space they have. They don’t even have space for a yard to house sand, mulch, gravel, etc., so they’re not able to take advantage of bulk purchasing.

But the issue is that most people would agree that housing trucks, equipment and maintenance items in the same building as the Gymnastics Center is not the best use of the building. The bulk of the investment required in the building is for remedial repair and would only slightly increase the Gymnastics space by taking space from administration, such as the boardroom. That’s a lot to spend for not a lot gained.

The challenge for the park district and the village is to find a new home for Building & Grounds. Perhaps that pumphouse at Lake and Lombard could be used by the park district, once the village’s new garage is finished. If the park district is able to relocate Building & Grounds, then their long-term plan for 218 Madison would be a good investment and not an expensive, short-term bandaid.

Peter Traczyk
Oak Park

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