Village, D200 mulling over tennis courts at village hall

Preliminary talks to build a tennis court on village hall parking lot, making way for OPRF pool

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By Michael Romain

Staff Reporter

In January, the District 200 Board of Education approved a motion to build an Olympic-sized swimming pool on the site of the baseball field, but that would happen only if an off-campus site is acquired by the April 23 board meeting to house the baseball team. 

Another part of that plan was to locate alternative sites for either the softball or tennis programs, both of which would potentially be uprooted by the pool construction, as second and third priorities by April 23.

While specific locations for the baseball program have yet to be secured, D200 and Oak Park village officials have had very informal preliminary discussions about the location of what could be an alternative site for the school's displaced tennis team.

The village of Oak Park has offered the school district land adjacent to the village hall to locate tennis courts. Although they haven't specified any hard dollars, elected officials are optimistic that the plan could be a financial win-win for both the school district and the municipality. 

"The concept we discussed is to use the parking lot [on one side] of Oak Park Village Hall as needed space to build a pool on the baseball field," said school board President John Phelan at a D200 board meeting on March 16.

"This preliminary discussion indicates that this could result in cost savings to the district and village, and at the same time could put attractive recreational facilities in a much-needed area [so people would come] to village hall for purposes other than paying parking tickets. 

 "We could even make a decision if the board decided to make that move independent of the pool placement, which would stage other changes in the pool building process to minimize disruption to our athletic and P.E. programs were the pool referendum to pass next spring — if we decided to go that route," Phelan said.

"This needs to work financially for everyone involved," said Oak Park Trustee Bob Tucker at a village board meeting also held March 16. 

Tucker added that the courts would provide the neighborhood with another common amenity, but that neighbors around the proposed site "need to be actively engaged in the process." 

Oak Park President Anan Abu-Taleb said that, if the plan worked, it could possibly increase property values in the area without taking vital property tax revenue off of the rolls.  

"We need to make sure our neighbors buy in and participate if it happens," said Anan. "It's an investment for the next 50 to 100 years," he said, noting that, if executed right, the project could be "a win-win situation" for residents. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com 

Reader Comments

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Chris Williams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: April 1st, 2015 11:34 AM

Michael D. Adams - I'm not sure who your comment is directed at - re "vacant land" and not having any say in how an owner chooses to use property. Are you referring to the Village Hall parking lot? Obviously not vacant land. Second, your comment is flat out incorrect - there is something called a zoning ordinance. The VH parking lot is zoned R-4, residential. So, indeed, one does have a say in how land is used - when the owner wants to get a zoning variance to build an athletic facility and underground parking garage in a residential-zoned area. If I am incorrect about what your comment was about, disregard. If I am correct, consider yourself slightly less ignorant.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 31st, 2015 3:09 PM

Oh Jim, now your opening up a wound, by mentioning that garage. :-) I wish I had been paying attention to local government when that little decision was made. D200 got the VOP to pay for that garage, and pay for free parking for staff and teachers in in perpetuity, with the argument that such a structure would alleviate parking issues for the residents in that part of OP. And now, we (the taxpayers of Oak Park, not River Forest) are still paying off the debt, which is currently about $3 million, at $430K a year. But it's not just the debt service. It's also the fact that that garage brings in, annually, only $15K in revenue, while costing $110K to maintain. If D200 did have to incur the financial burden of that garage, perhaps their pool discussion and decisions would be a wee bit different.

Jim Egeberg from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2015 2:16 PM

I still think the most viable solution would be to tear down the garage at OPRF and build the pool at that site. For the thousands of residents who work in the loop and walk a fair bit to and from mass transit, having the public and teachers park in the oak park ave garage would not be an inconvienence. What will be is the cost of building the pool.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2015 1:14 PM

Amy - Please feel free to add my WJ name to your list. My WJ name is John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois.

Amy Srodon Williams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2015 12:34 PM

@Corey and @ Rachel, you are not the only ones. Since our FB names are listed please message me - we already have a big group of neighbors banded together against this, ready to do whatever needs to be done in the name of common sense...

Rachel Benoit from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 31st, 2015 9:07 AM

@Mimi, wouldn't the most expedient way to save tax dollars be to not build things we don't need? The tennis courts are not needed or wanted in this location. You'd think OP was trying to keep the construction business afloat single-handedly. @Corey, I'm with you. But it feels like the pool is a done deal - our $50 mil is burning a hole in their pocket.

Corey Gimbel from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 30th, 2015 11:43 AM

Is it just me or does ANYONE else think that spending $50,000,000 on a swimming pool for a HIGH SCHOOL used ONLY by students of that school is OBSCENE? That's 50 MILLION dollars. What's the per capita cost per student for that and what could be earned by spending $25,000,000 and investing the rest in something green? I'm appalled that anyone in this "supposedly" progressive community would consider spending $50,000,000 on something of such limited utility. To carry that idea a bit further; why couldn't such a facility be made available to the actual people paying for it's creation? THE TAXPAYERS I MEAN of Oak Park and River Forest. What a concept huh? That the people paying get to use what they pay for themselves...................

Maggie Klein  

Posted: March 30th, 2015 8:54 AM

Wow Mimi, just shut up? Why, because peoples opinion is different than yours and your good buddy Anans? I too think Anan should worry about his own taxing body before he sticks his nose into others and trying to interject his ideas into their business. But, I won't tell you to shut up, because you insist on following this guy like he is some kind of guru.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2015 10:51 PM

Mimi - I believe most of us want independent thinking rather than the sloppy efforts and bizarre decisions of the seven village board members. The village board should get its house in order before trying to take charge of the schools, park and rec, etc.

Jakob Eriksson from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: March 29th, 2015 4:26 PM

It would be interesting to see how the cost of building and maintaining D200 sports facilities compare to the cost of its educational facilities.

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 28th, 2015 9:44 PM

Regardless of how this particular project happens or doesn't happen, what is important is that we have at least one elected official in OP who is willing to think creatively - across taxing bodies- about how to solve common problems that affect our whole community. OP taxpayers: there are six taxing bodies reaching into your pocket. Don't you want them to at least TRY to work together creatively to reduce your tax bill? Think about who gives a crap about you as a taxpayer when you vote for Park Board, D97 and D200 on April 7th. And if you don't care enough to enlighten yourself and vote, kindly shut up.

Michael D Adams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 28th, 2015 8:02 PM

In my humble opinion this discussion will go on for years. And if and when a decision is made the lawsuits will come fast and furious. FYI if you buy a home across from vacant land that you do not own you don't have a say in what the owner does with it. Also the OPRF Baseball program is the most storied program in the history of High School Baseball in Illinois. To move this field from it's current location is throwing tradition to the wayside. Also the people on Linden complained about lights on the football field and delayed them for years. Can only imagine that uproar. To the people on Linden. You bought there because the home were less money than on Euclid. Same goes you guys is you don't own the property you don't have a say in how the owner chooses to use it. I am bracing myself to get slammed. Have at it sports fans.

Amy Srodon Williams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 28th, 2015 12:52 AM

With all due respect @Mimi, the area they want to build on is not on Madison - it is on Lombard and Adams which is a residential neighborhood with many children, seniors who have been living in their homes 50+ years, etc. Sure, we'd be happy if they revitalized some of the many wig stores on Madison - we don't need our front yards "revitalized" with a wasteful, ridiculous project like this. Would you like a 200-car underground parking structure and tennis stadium just feet from your front door? Yeah, didn't think so...

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 27th, 2015 10:11 PM

Mimi - your bet is attractive. How much money are you covering?

Mimi Jordan from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 27th, 2015 9:36 PM

We need more fresh thinking like this. There are two issues that I think there is an attempt to creatively address here: 1. Help D200 solve its pool problem, and 2. help vitalize Madison St. No one should do a victory lap and just call this a win-win at this early stage, but, I bet both the Village/D200 and the neighbors of this potential project will be able to find common ground.

Kevin Peppard from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 27th, 2015 1:31 AM

There's virtually no chance of this happening, Jeff Weissglass announced at Thursday's D200 Board meeting that preliminary estimates of costs seem to be prohibitive, not in the realm of reality.That was at around midnight, when the Wednesday Journal reporter had already left. Weissglass also repeated another possibility that has never been reported: Building a parking garage at GROUND level on the South Playing Fields across Lake Street, and putting artificial turf on top. That has been done at numerous colleges, and at a high school (Google "Rooftop Playing Field"), and seems to be fairly cost-effective. The Pool would be built on the existing garage site, and none of the existing sports fields would be moved. The Park District might subsidize some of the garage costs, since it could handle parking for big events at Ridgeland Commons. Again, none of this has been reported.

Amy Srodon Williams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 26th, 2015 11:06 PM

Bravo, @Richard Willis! Very eloquently said! My husband called the Village Hall today, spoke to the head zoning person and was told that while the Village Hall is zoned for business use, the parking lot is actually zoned as residential - I'm hoping this would be another barrier in our favor. Also, one of our Lombard neighbors has said that she has a copy of a newspaper article from the 1970s reporting that the VIllage would "never" build on the green space. This was the deal they cut with the community when they tore down the extra houses on the 500 blocks of Lombard and Taylor to allow for the buffer green space you mentioned. This comes down to common sense and fiscal responsibility and I'm hopeful that together, we can fight this yet again - hopefully for the last time!

Richard Willis from Oak Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2015 9:09 PM

Every few years Oak Park elected officials attempt to pave over the park south of Village Hall that serves children and been a buffer to the neighborhood for 40 years. Two years ago it was District 97 who led a failed effort to construct a new administration building on the site and now the Village and OPRF High School Boards want to build new tennis courts rather than use under utilized Park District facilities. The State of Illinois is attempting to preempt financial bankruptcy thru reduce funding to local communities for education, mental health and safety due to 30 years of overspending. The Village of Oak Park and Oak Park-River Forest High School Boards should be pragmatic about their spending else our community will be in the same financial situation as Springfield. Tennis courts at Village Hall will increase congestion in the neighborhood, provide no financial benefit and add facilities already available in the community. We need Oak Park elected officials to champion the cause of Aaron Montgomery Ward and become protectors of park space. The Village of Oak Park should pass a resolution once and for all to keep this space open for future generations to enjoy.

Bridgett Baron from Oak Park  

Posted: March 26th, 2015 1:51 PM

I'm still not on board with building a $50 million natatorium, any where. But riddle me this: Do we need to replace the OPRF tennis courts if they go away? The Park District has 23 courts in 7 parks. And currently they are underutilized. Not to mention that there are businesses in OP and RF which offer tennis courts. Like many things, it appears there are other intentions/motivations going on here, which are not being voiced, and so it's silly to even engage in any sort of meaningful conversation when WJ hands us a story about pies, when the story is really about donuts.

Chris Williams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 26th, 2015 11:34 AM

Once again I must reiterate that there are two main issues here. I am very grateful for the comments related to how this plan would affect the residents who live near VH; indeed it would be a disaster for us, especially if they are planning on building an entire facility, as opposed to just tennis courts. But what is even more important, and worse, is the cost of building underground parking. I keep saying this, and I will keep on. Anan wants 200 underground spaces - each space is 35k-50k. That is a minimum of 7 million dollars, all in order to accommodate a high school tennis team. I am utterly at a loss to explain why this concept keeps popping up, why they keep pushing this. Is it simple incompetence? Or something else? At any rate, I am confident that this insane idea of spending 7-10 million dollars for a parking garage, for a tennis team, will never happen. I will be at the D200 board meeting tonight to explain all this; the board members are smart people, I am confident we will prevail. As for Anan, I am completely baffled.

Amy Srodon Williams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 26th, 2015 10:54 AM

For everyone who is concerned about this very troubling potential project, I urge you to go to the D200 Board of Education meeting tonight from 6:30-11pm in Meeting Room 213 at OPRF - I believe they take public comments at 7:30pm. Not sure if this project will be discussed tonight, but we should all go since we could wake up to bulldozers tomorrow knowing how things seem to work around here. http://www.oprfhs.org/campusuite25/modules/calendar.cfm?grp_id=9606&cal_id=216100

Jim Coughlin from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 26th, 2015 2:48 AM

Trustee Tucker wants the neighbors actively involved in the process. If there isn't majority support for the plan from the homeowners and residents in the neighborhood; does that kill the plan? Doubtful. Subjected the area to more traffic and noise seems to be an unfair burden. Not to mention the quality of life issues relating to the construction project and operations. Is there any evidence showing property values increase as a result of a recreational facility being placed in a residential neighborhood? Unlike the community centers owned by the park district, this proposal would provide questionable benefits to area residents.

Elizabeth Melara from Oak Park  

Posted: March 25th, 2015 5:33 PM

District 200 and Village Board: Is the tennis court two blocks away too far? Neighbors shut down a plan to use that for a parking lot not long ago. The urgent need for more parking by Village Hall is simply not there.. Yes, OCCASIONALLY the lot is full - election days, now and then an important board meeting but people manage to find a space. Two suggestions: District 200: Just tear down YOUR garage and build a tennis court. The Board seems to have ab insatiable desire to bring in more and more construction. Why can't we keep the little green space we have? Parking spaces needed? How about DTOP where a garage and an adjacent lot were removed for more condos which won't even have sufficient parking for their owners. I used to be a regular at the Lake Theatre, Not long ago, I tried to go to the Lake there was no parking anywhere. I ended up going to a theatre in another town. I also think twice about patronizing other businesses there. So District 200 and Village Board: apparently you have have money to give away to developers. How about buying all the surrounding homes around Village Hall at a fair price so we can all move to a town that cares about all its people, not just the high income buyers who will come to your beloved condos? With the market the way it is,we are stuck here. Buy us out at a good price. Think about it. Then you would have room for even more highrises!

Dave Slade from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 25th, 2015 9:53 AM

"This preliminary discussion indicates that this could result in cost savings to the district and village, and at the same time could put attractive recreational facilities in a much-needed area [so people would come] to village hall for purposes other than paying parking tickets." This could well be the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Who has heard of and actually seen such a concept of "cost savings" in our town? And what else does Village Hall offer that we would "visit" for something other than paying parking tickets? Buying stickers to put out yard waste? Just to hang out? A tennis facility on this street along with underground parking is absolutely the worst idea since putting up a 20-story building at the corner of Harlem and South. Agreeing with Amy, I'd like to invite any police officer on staff to ticket someone for cruising through any of the stop signs at Lombard and Adams, much less see an police officer stop at one of the signs. There is not one "plus" to this idea. Move along. Please.

Gail Mran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 24th, 2015 5:19 PM

Respectfully, tennis courts are expensive to maintain and does every neighborhood need their own?

Amy Srodon Williams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 24th, 2015 5:04 PM

School board president Phelan thinks building a tennis stadium with underground parking "?could put attractive recreational facilities in a much-needed area [so people would come] to village hall for purposes other than paying parking tickets." It's a nice spin, if only it were true. The Village Hall is located in a residential neighborhood that is already suffering from congestion and traffic, with Lombard used as a high-speed thoroughfare by police and other drivers day and night. As it is, our children have to wait for 5-6 cars to pass before they can cross the street for school, we have to fold in the side mirrors on our cars so they don't get ripped off, and the street is so narrow that two cars cannot pass each other. How does Phelan get to decide our neighborhood is a "much-needed area" to build a major project like this? As a resident of the 600 S. Lombard block, I can say that no one in the area is interested in adding any recreational facilities, and we don't think it is a priority to bring more people to the Village Hall. We'd be happy to be left alone with our little strip of grass, frankly, but building in the Village Hall parking lot seems to be a mysterious obsession our politicians just can't seem to drop, no matter how vehemently or recently the public has protested it. This could mean lights for nighttime play, bleacher seating, and restroom facilities?"maybe they can even throw in some concession stands?"on top of a 200-car underground parking structure that would cost at least $10M or more. President Abu-Taleb said the project "possibly increase property values in the area" ?" I disagree. Given a choice, most would not want to buy a home on a busy thoroughfare with a tennis stadium just yards away from their front door, useable a few months out of the year. This is not a "a win-win situation" for residents ?" it's a lose-lose situation for all Oak Parkers who will get left holding the bag on yet another expensiv

Amy Srodon Williams from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 24th, 2015 5:02 PM

School board president Phelan thinks building a tennis stadium with underground parking "?could put attractive recreational facilities in a much-needed area [so people would come] to village hall for purposes other than paying parking tickets." It's a nice spin, if only it were true. The Village Hall is located in a residential neighborhood that is already suffering from congestion and traffic, with Lombard used as a high-speed thoroughfare by police and other drivers day and night. As it is, our children have to wait for 5-6 cars to pass before they can cross the street for school, we have to fold in the side mirrors on our cars so they don't get ripped off, and the street is so narrow that two cars cannot pass each other. How does Phelan get to decide our neighborhood is a "much-needed area" to build a major project like this? As a resident of the 600 S. Lombard block, I can say that no one in the area is interested in adding any recreational facilities, and we don't think it is a priority to bring more people to the Village Hall. We'd be happy to be left alone with our little strip of grass, frankly, but building in the Village Hall parking lot seems to be a mysterious obsession our politicians just can't seem to drop, no matter how vehemently or recently the public has protested it. This could mean lights for nighttime play, bleacher seating, and restroom facilities?"maybe they can even throw in some concession stands?"on top of a 200-car underground parking structure that would cost at least $10M or more. President Abu-Taleb said the project "possibly increase property values in the area" ?" I disagree. Given a choice, most would not want to buy a home on a busy thoroughfare with a tennis stadium just yards away from their front door, useable a few months out of the year. This is not a "a win-win situation" for residents ?" it's a lose-lose situation for all Oak Parkers who will get left holding the bag on yet another expensiv

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