The latest report on Ridgeland Common authoritatively declares the facility physically and functionally obsolete. The roof leaks. Hot water rarely makes it all the way to the showers in the hockey team rooms. The lobby where skaters put on their skates is so cramped that getting on the ice for public skate sessions is like running a gauntlet.
The pool is fine for lap swimmers and competitions, but doesn’t do much for anybody else except get them wet. Ballfield lights are barely bright enough to make nighttime play feasible. The dog park floods. Indoor soccer is better now that the duct-taped Astroturf has been replaced, but without air-conditioning, things get pretty steamy.
The Ridgeland Common Existing Conditions study distinguishes between physical and functional obsolescence. Physical obsolescence means a place is old, tired and just not working right as a physical structure. We can fix it with enough money and maintenance. Functional obsolescence says even if a building operated as new, it still wouldn’t serve the needs of the users.
Oak Parkers have gotten more than their money’s worth out of Ridgeland Common. Every additional year the rink opens is one more than anybody expected when they put the walls and roof over the existing outdoor rink. Ridgeland was in dire shape when the Citizen Infrastructure Study Committee looked at it in 2002 and has not gotten better since.
As a community, we need to decide if spending $10 million on the tired, old place is worth the money. Considering how many people use the facility year-round, shutting it down is out of the question, but it’s a real possibility if a major system fails.
A far better option is saving that cash and putting it toward a new facility that can meet the recreation needs of the community well into the future. There are partners out there who can come together and make this happen in a way that doesn’t drive up taxes. It will take some creative thinking, some community fundraising and some solid planning, but Oak Park can once again claim Ridgeland Common as a jewel in our community crown.