The River Forest Park District has hired an Oak Brook-based architectural firm to design upgrades to accommodate an expansion of its successful paddle tennis program.

Park district commissioners on March 14 charged FGM Architects of Oak Brook with planning a paddle tennis hut, where players can keep warm, view other matches and socialize. Two new courts are in the works as well, which will bring the number of paddle tennis courts at the site to four.

The firm will meet with staff and get input from a committee of paddle tennis players on what they want to see inside and outside the structure, said Mike Sletten, the park district’s executive director. 

Bathrooms, utilities, storage, counter space, seating, an area for a television set and perhaps a fireplace could be part of the structure. It will have a lot of windows so players can have a good view of the courts.

A site plan for the entire complex will be unveiled to park board commissioners next month. That design also will lay out how the hut and two courts will fit in to the small area in Keystone Park where paddle tennis is played. That proposal will come from the architects, said Ross Roloff, president of the park board. 

“Once we figure out where it [the hut] will fit, we can start designing it. “It’ll be like unraveling a puzzle,” Sletten said. 

Roloff is hopeful that the hut and new courts will be open for the fall season.

The budget for the upgrades is $550,000 — $300,000 for the hut and another $250,000 for the courts. Donations from paddle tennis players and a membership fee increase could cover the costs, Sletten said. 

Paddle tennis has grown in popularity in River Forest. The membership-only facility has become so difficult to schedule that the River Forest Park District has held membership to 144 people. 

Annual membership is $182 for River Forest residents, $212 for non-residents; program fees are $30 per person, per season. The courts are closed to the general public.

The funds cover operating costs of the two existing courts and pay down the debt associated with building the facility, park district officials said.  

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