River Forest paddle tennis players will get two additional courts, but no shelter, as the exorbitant cost – around three times higher than originally projected – has forced the park district to table the issue for a later date. 

Commissioners on Aug. 8 decided to move forward on the new courts to allow more recreational players to use the courts after prime time weekday hours of 6 p.m.

The estimated cost will be $250,000 and will be firmed up when drawings and a timeline for the project are brought back for commissioners in September, park district Executive Director Mike Sletten said.

An application to construct the courts will have to be approved by River Forest village trustees, because it is a minor amendment to a planned development that created Keystone Park, at Lake Street and Keystone Avenue, in the 1990s.

Once they are ready for the start of the fall 2017, the new courts will accommodate a membership that could top as many as 240, based on demand, Sletten said.

Annual membership fees will remain at $193 and cover the capital and operating costs associated with the program, Sletten added.

But even with the membership fees where they are, they won’t come near to covering the cost of a paddle tennis shelter, which according to estimates came in around three times higher than previously projected. 

The park district placed the budget for the shelter, which officials are calling a “hut,” at $300,000 and asked paddle tennis members how much they were willing to pay additionally to build it. Members said they were willing to pay $100 extra annually. 

But architects hired to draft some ideas estimated the cost at $1 million. The site, which was a tight one to work in, would have accommodated a 1,200- to 1,400-square-foot building with aluminum decking, lights, two ADA accessible bathrooms, a gathering space and lots of windows around the shelter for viewing. 

Park board President Ross Roloff said commissioners knew they would move forward with the courts. After figuring out how a shelter could fit in, they went back to look at the financial piece. It was just untenable, he said.

“We understood when the park district made the commitment for paddle tennis that it would not be a burden to the taxpayers,” Roloff said. “The amount that the paddle tennis community is willing to increase its annual dues by to underwrite the hut was exceeded by the amount that the hut would cost us.”

To a large group of people, the courts were more important than anything. The consensus was the shelter would be great. As of now, the park district will continue exploring the addition of a shelter. 

“But we’re not sure a hut is worth increasing dues by even twice. We’ll know next month how back-burnered the hut will be,” Roloff said.

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