Ridgeland Common ready for public

Walk-through media tour highlights upgrades for grand reopening

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By Marty Farmer

Staff Reporter

Since major renovations began in March of 2013, Oak Parkers have been eager to get a closer look at the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex. The wait is nearly over for curious residents, with the grand reopening of the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex slated for Saturday, June 14 from noon to 3 p.m.

People who attend the free event will be treated to a plethora of amenities, including access to the pool and Paul Hruby Ice Arena along with a luau party. When not taking a dip in the pool, lounging in a chair on the pool deck or skating a few laps around the ice rink, residents can visit other new areas of interest, including three activity rooms, a wading pool with a penguin slide and numerous spray play features, a customer service kiosk and spacious lobby area with free Wi-Fi.

The aforementioned new regulation-sized ice arena also features a new grandstand and five locker rooms. The ice arena, which has theatrical lighting and a sound system for ice shows/public skates, will operate year-round, providing open skating, figure skating and hockey lessons and leagues.

At the grand reopening, special appearances from Oak Park native and U.S. Olympian speed skater Emery Lehman, Olympic figure skater Aaron Parchem and the Chicago Blackhawks Ice Crew are planned. The rec complex's new mascots, Oakie and Parker, are also slated to make their debut to share in community fun.

Other options during the afternoon will include self-guided tours, musical entertainment, concessions from local vendors, plus giveaways, drawings and more.

A Cosmic Skate afterparty will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. in the ice arena. Admission is $10 ($5 with a season skating pass).

Discussions about renovating the Ridgeland Common facility and grounds (originally built in 1962) began in 2007. Major renovations for the park district's flagship facility started in March 2013.

"The renovation of the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex has been a community-driven process," said Diane Stanke, the park district's director of marketing and customer service. "I feel like this building really reflects what our community wanted. I'm excited for the community to see everything during the grand reopening."

Overall, the new Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex (RCRC) includes complete building reconstruction with expansion of the ice rink to official size (85-by-200 feet); a synthetic turf sports field with new lighting and fencing for multiple sports; separate entrances to the ice arena and pool with stroller parking at the pool entry leading directly to the pool deck; new children's wading pool with several water features; built-in stairs and an ADA-accessible aquatic lift for easy pool access for all patrons; three activity/meeting rooms, including a large activity room equipped with special flooring, ballet bars and mirrors for fitness and dance classes.

Additionally, most of the pool mechanicals were replaced. The main pool's shell remains in good condition and wasn't replaced as part of the renovation. Patrons will also enjoy a new pool deck, a raised picnic and lounge area, plenty of shade structures and outdoor lockers.

Email: marty@oakpark.com Twitter: @OakParkSports

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Reader Comments

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Friar Tuck from OP  

Posted: June 18th, 2014 2:25 PM

@swimfan, insurance liability has everything to do with it, plus the fact that Rehm has morphed over the years from it's original competition configuration. It doesn't make sense to maintain a competitive diving platform when the pool itself isn't designed for competition. I grew up here in the late '60's when access to the platform was open to all over age 10, & seeing kids injured "facing their fears" was a weekly occurrence. Nothing serious, but there are better ways to build character.

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 18th, 2014 12:31 PM

@Swimfan, I wonder if insurance premiums have something to do with the decision to remove the high dive.


Posted: June 18th, 2014 12:14 PM

The park district is also planning on removing the diving platform entirely at Rehm. Among all the bells and whistles being considered (lazy river, climbing walls, Stand up paddleboard!), more slides, not a single option includes a diving board above 1m. If you think it's important for kids to learn to face their fears, or if you agree it's just fun to jump off high places, please let the PD know they are making a mistake.


Posted: June 17th, 2014 3:08 PM

There is actually no shade when you in the pool either. The umbrellas are more than they ever had before. That pergola didn't block the sun. Put on sunscreen and enjoy yourself. The place looks great!

Donna from Oak Park  

Posted: June 17th, 2014 1:19 PM

I noticed the umbrellas as Ridgeland neared the end of its revamp. I assumed that these were just a portion of shade that would be available at the opening. It seems that these are the only available shade for patrons. Given our knowledge of skin cancers I am not happy that there is such a small amount of shade available. It seems to be an easy and sensible addition. Is there a possibility of that being fitted retroactively?


Posted: June 16th, 2014 1:46 PM

The new facility looks lovely - haven't been to RC since my OPRF days in the 80s, but I am wondering...what did they do with all the groovy old 1960s Peter Max signage - or has that been gone for years now?

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 10:04 AM

As a former Park Board member during the planning, I'll wade in again to answer Mr Lauber's question...The new complex is Sliver LEED certified, with numerous energy efficient amenities, including an electric Zamboni. During planning, the architects evaluated many alternative energy configurations, with the goal of being the first Platinum LEED ice rink/pool complex in the US. Yes, the idea of solar panels on the southern exposure was considered. Ultimately, the added expense to achieve Platinum status was prohibitive with little, if any, incremental energy or cost savings. The mechanical systems needed to operate a pool/rink facility were not compatible with a solar energy system. The architects know more about the technical side of why, but I do recall concerns about additional weight on the roof among other things, in addition to being substantially more expensive....hope this helps a little.


Posted: June 10th, 2014 9:50 AM

In the picture of the "electric" zambonie, there looks like there is a yellow gas pump nozzle hanging to the left of the zambonie? Could this be for water? I also see a hose?

OP Res 253 from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 8:38 AM

Please tell me they are going to install some privacy guards along the fence lines. My cohort will be taking our children to the pool often this summer, but don't think that the steady stream of traffic at Ridgeland and Lake need see our middle aged mommy bods in swim suits. Nor do we feel like displaying them thusly. It's a bit "exposed", no?

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: June 10th, 2014 6:40 AM

@Nuts O'Parky: Well said ;) I don't know the origin, but have long loved the "unofficial"(?) slogan for Oak Park: "One tree, many nuts"

Dan Lauber from River Forest  

Posted: June 9th, 2014 11:56 PM

Given its excellent, unobstructed southern exposure, I've been wondering whether the building is solar powered. You can't tell from the ground. Does anybody know if the Park District had the good sense to go the solar power route? With all the "green" talk in Oak Park, you would think they would have gone the responsible solar power way.

Nuts O'Parky  

Posted: June 9th, 2014 4:33 PM

@Rebecca - you are far too rational for this forum. Try one of these - it cost too much; we should have done more; we should have done less; pool should be enclosed; pool should have been eliminated; not enough parking; dog park too big; dog park too small; field too small; field should be natural; well, you get the idea. The best part is you can complain freely without ever participating in the process.


Posted: June 9th, 2014 4:09 PM

@swim/hockey/soccer parent. Not all children sit perfectly still contemplating chess moves/play the piano or want to get on stage and sing and dance. My kids play sports, it teaches responsibility, how to set goals, and how to work with others. Another benefit is exercise, they are very healthy. They aren't going to the pro's so why can't they have fun in their childhood?

OP Transplant  

Posted: June 9th, 2014 3:12 PM

To "Parking" - Thank you! I get so tired of people posting below various articles about how parking isn't a problem and we should all walk or ride bikes. Does no one remember winter? Does no one have children? Does no one ever have to transport things? Does no one go out after dark?


Posted: June 9th, 2014 2:45 PM

Last time I checked, it wasnt so easy to shlep a hockey bag on my bike or for that matter ride one in the winter.


Posted: June 9th, 2014 2:43 PM

Not sure there was ever a "cant lock your bike up" problem. The lack of parking has been known for a long time. Since 1962, there have been some changes to how people transport themselves. Its not so easy to transport 5 children on a bike. I'm surprised they dont have an electrical charging station.


Posted: June 9th, 2014 1:45 PM

A facility like this is a benefit for you all. Stop complaining and enjoy it.


Posted: June 9th, 2014 10:26 AM

Isn't interesting that one would comment that adding alternatives to driving cars, I.e., bike parking improvements, that the rcrc complex would be knocked as not being as progressive because additional parking wasn't accounted for.


Posted: June 9th, 2014 8:52 AM

@ Phil, then I guess it's good that they didn't "upgrade" the old facility, because it would have cost twice as much.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: June 8th, 2014 7:36 AM

And I understand the need to close the deck. With new disabilities regulations, it was too costly to add an elevator. I voiced my opinion and heard a very reasonable explanation when I called the Parks District Super. I get it and would probably have made the same choice when faced with the constraints. Posters complaining about the costs have to remember that it always costs much more to "upgrade/fix/maintain" old structures than to build brand new ones in the burbs.

Phil from Oak Park  

Posted: June 8th, 2014 7:32 AM

My frustration with the upgrade is the loss of the upper, adults-only sundeck. With the pool is the same size and the kiddie-pool bigger, this means much less space to sit and read along the pool. The "new" deck is mostly in the shade, which I recognize is probably healthier. But for those (like me) who want to bask in the sun for a bit away from rancorous hordes of kids, I see this as a step backward.


Posted: June 7th, 2014 12:50 PM

Thats the problem! looks like there could be alot more......Going from a small amount to a small amount isnt progress.

Swim/Hockey/Soccer Parent  

Posted: June 7th, 2014 10:04 AM

Millions should be spent on my kid's sport, because my kid is more important than other kids. We need more pools/ice/fields. My kid's gonna be a star!


Posted: June 7th, 2014 7:49 AM

@parkikng; there are the same number of parking spaces now as there were prior to the redevelopment.

OP Swim Mom from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 7:26 PM

The facility is beautiful, and I'm sure it will have great use. My major issue with the "new" RC is that all of the $ was spent on the ice rink. The PD should support all residents' use of the parks. The pool should have been enclosed, so that all ages could use it year-round. I think a much greater percentage of the OP population could have used an indoor pool as opposed to an ice rink. The reason our buildings cost so much more is that OP does not use the cheaper metal buldgs, but rather brick


Posted: June 6th, 2014 3:09 PM

I dont see why they didnt design parking in the front of building either straight or on angle where all those concrete barriers are??? We did design this from scratch no? Parking is a hassle in OP. Hello Parking Gods.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 1:43 PM

@op, the actual cost was $22.8 million. Sounds like you should grab some sunscreen while you can still afford to. However, the park district is only 5% of the property tax bill. Innuendo's and half truths do nothing more than slight those have taken the time to serve the community.

Mike Ryan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:57 PM

The pool is not smaller. Please suggest an alternate solution before you go knocking the one that was agreed upon after long, community involved, planning. Maybe the complainers should learn to skate...it's great cardio.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:55 PM

Sorry - last point really. My point is not really the cost (sunk). the point is OP continues to drive ourselves over a fiscal cliff - not today, but for the next generations. We need real soul searching in OP - and a cohesive plan.. not more high spend projects.

Happy Mom  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:50 PM

It's kind of late for outrage about the price. I say pack the sunscreen and enjoy.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:49 PM

Data Points - Jimmy Ice House $4MM to build, Pool in Oak Brook $5MM and field about $2MM to build in Shaumburg. That is $11MM - now add our usual extra cost for waste/overheard ...$15MM is about right. Those include some land purchase - thet we did not have... The facility is FINE, I think we way overpaid for what was done. No more posts..

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:44 PM

Marty, perhaps this string would have been more useful and less contentious if you had opened up your post by stating you were an active volunteer at Park and Rec. I apologize for interrupting your discussion with OPDad & OP.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:37 PM

@ Jim e. $27 mm actually was budget and by the time done, my bet is $30MM. Arch firm does what told by Park district... look, we can convince ourselves of any truth we want - but lets call it what it is ... this is a redo fo the old park with minor upgrade. This is not worth $30M but who cares, lets dig OP in a bigger whole than we are in!


Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:36 PM

For all the citizens who participated in the tens of public meetings, thank you. To those who did not and only wish to demean, well, attend some meetings. Trust me, you will be listened to and your input considered.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:29 PM

Gentlemen, let's get one thing clear. The RCRC project was not $30 million, but rather only $23 million. Overpaid ? Not likely. The park district used one of the most respect arch firms in Chicago and benefited by having an outstanding construction company conduct the work. Whenever you replace a dipalidated 50 year old structure with new mechanics, there will be change.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:20 PM

To your comments, we have a field that is the same (covered in plastic), a pool that is smaller and an ice rink that is now year round. That is not an incremental $30MM of value - sorry I am business ex who has created $billions in value for shareholders (as part of senior team), worked in private equity and know value when I see it (and lack of)

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 12:12 PM

OPDad, you want to anonymously call me a schill? that's fine. I'm one of ten kids so trust me, I've been called much worse. How is this "public space" not for the public? What exactly would you have done, and did you participate in any of the planning meetings to let your feelings known? There were many people who wanted to spend much more, and there were many who didn't want to spend anything at all. All "crowds" (whatever that means) were vocal. Part of my "schilling" for this project included gaining intimate knowledge of the condition of the facility. Doing nothing wasn't an option. I'll sling that knowledge for as long as you want....but I do have work to do. I bid you peace.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 11:54 AM

Marty is a schill for this project - that's pretty clear. Way too much money spent on replicating what was already in place largely to placate the vocal skating crowd. Public space should be for the public, not for the parents of spolied kids who don't want to drive for premium ice time. That's the real issue here, no matter what Marty is slinging.

Steve from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 11:53 AM

"Oakie"? Which genius came up with that one?

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 11:47 AM

Well...one good thing to come out from John's odd criticism of Marty, is that I now know about the Parks Foundation of Oak Park's Facebook page (I just "liked" it).


Posted: June 6th, 2014 11:40 AM

Marty - by insider, I mean to involved to be objective. Great, my parents came here in the 60's and left not too long ago as they felt OP has lost a lot of its luster - as they said, the "it" factor. Stand by comments - we overpaid for this project

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 11:34 AM

John, my original question still stands. Since when does disagreement constitute slander? Yes, I volunteered on to serve on the Park Board for 8 years, spent 3 years before that on volunteer committees, and in "retirement" have chosen to volunteer for the new Parks Foundation. Does that make me an "insider" with access to more institutional knowledge than the average resident? Of course it does. Guilty as charged and proud of it. Can I respectfully disagree with my neighbors such as "op" who think this is a "rehash"? You're darn right I can, and I will. I saw first hand how much innovation and sweat it took to create a brand new facility & field within the very limited footprint and budget. I fully realize not everyone is going to like every aspect of what was done. That's Oak Park...it's in our DNA and as a 3rd generation Oak Parker (my grandma was born here in 1897) it's in my DNA too. I'll stand by the work of our boards, staff, and the hundreds of volunteers and residents who participated in the planning that led to the building of the new RC. Thanks also for viewing the FB page. Glad to know our social media presence is having an impact.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 11:01 AM

Marty's words are irrelevant - he is an insider and any comments should be discounted heavily. Bottom line is OP overpaid for this project (values for fees) - for $30MM we should expect more innovation/ something really special. Not a rehash of old park with plastic field. OPers will of course say how wonderfulf it is - rule number one of OP Club - everyone must agree #2 if you disagree will wont like/listen to you.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 10:51 AM

@JBM - You are way off base on this one. No slander for one thing (it would be liable if anything but isn't either). "Advance info" sounds so devious. It's called volunteering your time and talent to a non-profit. As I am sure you know, when you volunteer for organizations you get to know the issues intimately. Marty tolled hundreds of hours for the park district. You don't need to agree with Marty but your posts are inappropriate at best. I suggest you tour the facility on the 14th.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 10:38 AM

Marty - Perhaps you wrote every word, but your Facebook page text of last Monday (see below) shows you had plenty of advance info. Whether you wrote your previous post or not, you were using info that was not available to the general public. FACEBOOK JUNE 2, 2014 Marty Bracco shared Parks Foundation of Oak Park's photo. - "This is one opportunity not to miss. Come join us for the very first event in the new Ridgeland Common. We were able to tour the facility recently and the Park District and their design and construction team did an amazing job. You'll be proud and amazed. Also, required no new taxes because of solid long-term planning and responsible fiscal management."

Bridgett from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 10:17 AM

Looking forward to seeing the new complex in person on the 14th.

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 9:59 AM

John, those are my own words. Since when does disagreement constitute "slander"? That's a bit extreme, don't you think?

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 9:36 AM

Marty - Bit unfair to use "boiler plate" materials from Park and Rec. to slander posters.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 9:21 AM

Also, if the park district is really concerned about maximizing play for the the greatest number of people, please remove the ridiculous double climbing wall which lifeguards allow only one user at a time (3 minutes ave per user) and bring back the other diving board at Rehm. My kid (and many others) waited in line for a half hour-- they don't even cut off the line but let kids wait in line in hot sun for nothing, then switch back to the drop slides.

Marty Bracco from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 9:08 AM

OPDad & OP, you couldn't be more wrong in your comments in my opinion.First, the village board and park board are two separate entities. And Oak Brook? Really? The thought, design, and feature choices behind this project was to provide the most/best use for the most people, and provide them within the Park District's existing cost structure. The turf allows more use by more people, with the added benefit of allowing better rest & maintenance of the natural grass fields in town. By the way, the main pool is the exact same size as before, & the kiddie pool is actually larger. Not sure where you get the idea it's smaller, but I assure you it's not. Regarding the diving boards, I believe current code requires greater safe zones between boards, which would explain why there are only two. I can't comment about why there isn't a high dive, though it's likely a safety issue due to updated pool depth requirements. Also, the ice rink is now regulation size and can be used year round. There are several new community spaces that can be used by everyone. Were we able to get everything we all wanted? No, of course not. Were tough choices made? Yes, indeed, but they were made with the best interest of the most people in mind, and with a keen awareness of what we could and could not afford. Time, of course, will tell, but I'm confident the new RC is a great value for the community and will successfully serve the recreation needs of our community for decades to come.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 9:04 AM

And I agree with OPDad. I wish the PDOP would consider the value of activity, free play, and nature for residents of all ages rather than be focused entirely on organized sports. The PD move into organized sports (baseball, soccer) where organizations already exist just put more demand on limited and artificial field space. I wish they would reconsider their focus on organized sports.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 9:00 AM

I'm not complaining just to complain. The complex looks fantastic, but if the millions of dollars are spent only to improve the aesthetics, I am concerned. There's so much research about the effect activity and play have on child development, including building confidence by overcoming fears. From the disastrous Holmes pg redo to the removal of the sledding hill and now the high dive, the PDOP is making stuff "safe" and boring and ultimately less valuable to our community long-term.


Posted: June 6th, 2014 8:23 AM

Let's face it, much like the removal of the sledding hill to make way for astroturf to the west, this revision was intended to appease a small minority. The better approach would have been to put in a complex like that in Oak Brook, including a year-round pool, but the hockey/skating crowd must be over-represented on the Village Board, or pay a lot to control the Board. Just keep thinking sports are the key to your kids' success in the future.

People are never happy from Oak Park  

Posted: June 6th, 2014 8:18 AM

Looks beautiful to me and I can't wait to visit. I don't know why people always have to find something to complain about.


Posted: June 5th, 2014 11:34 PM

What happened to the high dive??? How are kids supposed to learn to overcome their fears?? The platform at rehm is really high for most kids, the ridgeland high dive was the perfect height. This is really stupid.

Satisfied customer  

Posted: June 5th, 2014 10:59 PM

Ridgeland Common is a destination for the whole community and I look forward to the upgrades and year-round skating.

cars kill  

Posted: June 5th, 2014 9:07 PM

Parking? 90% of OP is within 1.5 miles of Ridgeland. If you need to drive that distance to get to a RECREATION CENTER, you should probably reevaluate whether you should be recreating in the first place.


Posted: June 5th, 2014 8:23 PM

Huge waste of money $30M for what? I am reminded of the "emperor has invisible clothes" but this time it a smaller pool and cool seats in the lobby. We were sold a bill of goods and this is NOT delivering value - for $30MM - maybe $9?


Posted: June 5th, 2014 7:56 PM

I figure the same building design is no accident. In the planning stage it cleverly hid the extent to which the building grew -so much so that it ate the parking lot that used to be in front. So where are all the people who will fill the 5 locker rooms going to park? Is there a stealth plan to pay for this building through parking tickets? Or do they think people will use the garage by the high school? If so they're going to need another stop light so kids don't go darting across the street


Posted: June 5th, 2014 5:38 PM

We waited how long and spent how much for that?!! Wow. Same building design, smaller pool.


Posted: June 5th, 2014 4:14 PM

I'll miss the high dive. :-(

June from Oak Park  

Posted: June 5th, 2014 3:50 PM

Awesome! I'm looking forward to the grand opening.

pool and skate family  

Posted: June 5th, 2014 2:39 PM

Stunning! Well worth the wait and the $$.

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