Based largely on a 2012 athletic fields study, the Park District of Oak Park believes it’s in the best interests of the community to install three synthetic turf athletic fields. With two already in place at Irving School and Ridgeland Common, the park district has found the third location to be slightly elusive.

They initially targeted Stevenson Park, but the idea was nixed by the village due to concerns about installing artificial turf above of a water reservoir. 

The park is notable for its unusual elevation because it was built atop two concrete village of Oak Park water reservoirs.

Hoping to start construction on the third all-weather field this summer, the park district has been in discussions with the District 97 school board about installing the field at Percy Julian Middle School.

The synthetic turf is different from the crumb-rubber used at Irving and Ridgeland Common.

“The turf we’re looking to install at Julian is Nike Grind which is composed partially of ground up tennis shoe soles,” said Jan Arnold, park district executive director. “The crumb-rubber, which some people expressed concerns about in the community, consists of recycled tire rubber.

“I think what a lot of people don’t know is that synthetic turf fields have a huge sand base and then the rubber component. We’re looking to install the Nike Grind and see how it plays. Based on our research, it’s a positive athletic field surface.”

Although the park district and D97 previously partnered on the Irving project (splitting the cost of field construction, which was approximately $440,000) another potential intergovernmental agreement (IGA) for construction of a new field at Julian might have hit a snag.

At the Jan. 13 D97 meeting, board members welcomed the park district’s offer, but all expressed reservation about building a field at Julian while Brooks’ field languishes in disrepair.

“We can’t do one without the other,” Supt. Al Roberts said while noting that the Julian proposal is worth considering if the two districts can address the issue of equity.

Board member Peter Traczyk spoke for the entire board in echoing Roberts’ sentiment.

“I don’t know how we do Julian without doing Brooks,” Traczyk said. “That’s a real equity issue for me.”

Board President Robert Spatz said an ideal situation would be for the two districts to draft an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) and for the park district to pay 100 percent of the costs of completing both Julian and Brooks.

But Roberts, who said the park district has a real sense of urgency to start the Julian project due to its summer construction schedule, also noted that the district has no interest in the Brooks site.

The board directed district staff to explore cost estimates for completing both fields and to gauge the park district’s interest in Brooks.

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...

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