The River Forest park board began the process Monday to approve construction of two platform tennis courts to replace a single public tennis court in Keystone Park as part of a $175,000 parks makeover paid for by TIF funds returned from the village. Also known as paddle tennis, the gated courts will be available only to residents who pay a $150 yearly subscription fee.
“A single tennis court does not seem to be a big price to pay,” said park board President Dale Jones.
Paddle tennis is a fall and winter sport played with special racquets and a deflated ball. Local residents are clamoring for the sport, which is available in Lake Bluff, Glen Ellyn, Wilmette and Hinsdale. Last month, volunteer Holly Hirst gave the park board a list of almost 100 residents who’ve agreed, in theory, to pay a membership fee.
“We want to provide an adult outdoor activity in the winter. Our adult populations are underserved,” said Jones.
The park board allocated $25,000 of the TIF funds for the platform tennis courts. Board members had to retrieve extra chairs to seat paddle tennis supporters at the meeting, but only a single resident complained about removing the existing public court.
Supporters told board members that membership could be enforced by e-mailing a “code” to dues-payers. Board member Tom Cargie wondered whether the code could be passed onto others, but volunteers insisted they would be able to tell who was “bunking the system.”
Construction union strike halts park improvements
The July 1 strike by the same construction unions who have ceased work on the Eisenhower and local schools has suspended Keystone Park improvements for the sledding hill and soccer field, said Executive Director Michael Sletten.
Striking workers from Local No. 150 Operating Engineers and Local No. 1 Laborers Unions have “one day” of work left, laser grading the soccer field and putting the finishing touches on the hill. Landscapers – who are not striking – will be seeding the park next week.
College women’s 16-inch softball games floated
Board member Ron Steele said he would present a proposal for college-level women’s 16-inch softball summer exhibition games held at night on the baseball fields. Explaining that male college baseball players have summer teams, he pointed out that college women players have no playing opportunities during the summer.
“Wouldn’t it be cool? Wouldn’t it be unique” Steele said, “to have top-of-the-line girls’ ball?”
Board president Jones said ESPN has been increasing coverage of women’s softball. Lou Nieto agreed that the games would provide quality entertainment for residents, even if not all the players were local.
Addressing drug use in local parks
Jones said he and Sletten met with Acting River Forest Police Chief Greg Weiss to discuss working together with police to help curb after-hours drug-use in parks. He said police agreed that parts of Priory Park and Washington Park are used at night for “nefarious activities.”
Jones said the meeting was in response to data showing higher-than-average drug usage among local high-schoolers. Jones said he would be working with police to craft a notice to residents near the parks advising them to summon police when they spotted suspicious activities.
He also said they got a preview of new wireless video camera technology that will eventually be installed “all along the TIF corridor.”