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Oak Park’s park commissioners are enthusiastic about two new design options for remaking Ridgeland Common and gave contractors the go-ahead to research cost estimates for each alternative at their regular board meeting a week ago Tuesday.

Cost estimates, specifically pegged to a $20 million target, are expected to be completed over the next two months and be brought back to the board for consideration sometime in October. Park officials have said a project of that size, along with the planned expansion of the gymnastics center and the district’s Building and Grounds Department, could be realized by issuing bonds but without an increase in the property tax rate. Tackling Ridgeland Common now, though, might extend the latter phases of improvements in neighborhood parks as less money would be available for those projects.

Back in April, the park board enlisted architects from the Nagle Hartray to come up with two schemes showing the different possibilities for the facilities and fields at Ridgeland Common, Lake Street and Ridgeland, based largely on information gathered from a community survey last year.

The survey showed that residents strongly favored two options for the park. The first was to rebuild from the ground up, and the other was to renovate the existing structure.

At the meeting, Nagle Hartray presented drawings of each possibility, and outlined the pros and cons.

Park district Executive Director Gary Balling explained that both projects apply to the entire Ridgeland Common area, including the ice arena and building, the pool, the playing fields, and other features. “When we’re talking about Ridgeland Common, we’re talking about the complete site,” he said.

The first option presented was renovation. This design leaves the layout at Ridgeland Common much the same as it is now, with the pool to the east, the playing fields to the west, and the ice arena building in the center.

The renovation concept includes the expansion of the ice arena building, an enlargement of the ice rink itself, and a number of changes to the building layout. Unlike the current facility, the renovated building would be limited to a single story.

Outside, the pool are would remain much the same. “One of the advantages of the renovation concept is that you don’t have to rebuild the pool,” said Don McKay, of Nagle Hartray. However, he said there would be an option to relocate the wading pool to make way for a new entryway. “From a functional point of view, it works out very well,” he said.

The playing field area would include a central sports field made of artificial turf, and two baseball diamonds located at opposite corners. The dog park would be relocated to the southwest corner of the field, and would decrease slightly in size.

In the renovation concept, changes would also be made to the parking lot in the northeast corner. The new design would include a large drop-off zone.

In the new building concept, the layout of the park would change. The ice arena building would be located on the western end of the park, the pool in the center, and the playing fields at the eastern end. As with the renovation concept, the dog park would be moved to the southwest corner, and would remain the same size as it is today. The size of the ice arena building and the rink itself would also increase, and the building would be limited to a single story.

The playing fields are much the same in each concept, though the new building concept does decrease the size allowance. McKay also pointed out the increased risk of balls being hit out onto both Lake and Ridgeland.

In both the renovation and the new-building concepts, the sledding hill has been eliminated from the park. Both proposals increase the size of the sports fields, albeit by only a fraction of an acre.

One downside, however, is that both concepts decrease the number of parking spaces available at the park. While there is currently space for 70 cars, the renovation concept leaves space for 56 and the new building concept leaves space for 49.

Both scenarios would increase the efficiency of Ridgeland Common, McKay said, functionally and financially.

At the board’s direction, Nagle Hartray will move forward on the project. McKay said they hope to return to the board in October with specific cost estimates and information about how park district programming at Ridgeland Common might be affected during the construction.

And though the final costs of each scenario are still to be determined, Balling said at the meeting that the park district is budgeting for a $20 million price tag with an extra $2-$3 million for unforeseen expenses. The board said there will not be a tax increase to cover the costs of the Ridgeland Common improvement plan.


Ridgeland Common – Concept Development

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