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Chicago Daily Herald
By Russell Lissau

A $4.75 million expansion plan could nearly double the size of the Wauconda Community Center - but it would first need voter approval.

The Wauconda Park District's proposal calls for a 10,000-square-foot addition to the 21-year-old building in Cook Park.

Highlights could include an expanded fitness area, group fitness classrooms, an expanded dance room and an early-childhood classroom. The facility today features a fitness center, a gymnasium, one preschool room and four multipurpose rooms.

Officials say the extra space is needed because of the center's ever-increasing popularity.

"Serving a population that has almost doubled in the past two decades, the Wauconda Park District is striving to meet the community's demand for indoor recreational space," Park District Director Nancy Burton said in an email.

Since the center's construction at 600 N. Main St. in 1993, Wauconda's population has grown from fewer than 7,000 people to more than 13,600, officials said.

Activity at the 12,500-square-foot center has grown along with the population. Last year the district offered 1,197 classes, up 70 percent from five years earlier, parks officials said. The number of fitness memberships has grown about 30 percent in that time.

"The existing community center simply has been overwhelmed by the growth and the increase in participation in our wide range of classes and programs," Burton said. "Individuals are realizing the important role exercise and wellness can have in their overall quality of life."

District officials are only a few months from paying off the loan that funded the construction of the center 21 years ago. That final payment is due in December, Burton said.

The park district board could decide in August to put the proposal on the Nov. 4 ballot.

If voters approve raising $4.75 million for an expansion, the owner of a house with an average value of $223,500 would pay an additional $72 in annual property taxes, Burton said. The net increase from the current rate, which includes the cost of the initial construction loan, would be less than $39 a year, Burton said.

"The current community center has served our residents well for over 20 years," Burton said.

"However, we have simply outgrown the facility. That is the reason why our board feels that it is important to bring this issue to our residents."

The expansion plan has drawn mixed reviews from members of a Facebook group dedicated to Wauconda and its politics, called Of Wauconda For Wauconda.

Resident John Hochreck said it seems expensive "for a health club expansion and a few classrooms." He said he'd like to see an indoor pool built at the center.

That sentiment was echoed by others.

"Agreed on the indoor pool," local resident Amanda Doud wrote. "The lake can only be used for a few months every year. And (it) is not great for fitness activities either."

But the expansion plan has supporters.

"My kid loves the classes hosted there," resident James Patzer wrote. "I am always for civic improvement. (It is) nice to see tax money going to something positive."

Resident Jason Rogers said he would leave his Lake Zurich gym "if we could have a decent place here in town."

The park district board is expected to vote on adding a referendum to the ballot Aug. 12.

Burton thinks the timing is right to put the question to voters.

"The park district has waited for (the) existing bond to be retired before asking voters to consider funding improvements," she said. "This expansion will meet the needs of our residents for years to come."


July 28, 2014

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