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Chicago Daily Herald


A desire for more indoor recreation space has become a frequent theme among Elmhurst Park District residents, officials say, but how to pay for it remains a key unanswered question.

In his State of the Park District address Monday, Executive Director James Rogers said community surveys and forums conducted this spring show strong support for an indoor sports facility, a senior center and a dog park. He said the survey results also show a need to enhance existing programs, "but the ones I really think we need to dig into first are the new offerings."

Angela Ferrentino, director of parks and facilities, said the district already offers more than 147,000 square feet of indoor space, including the Courts Plus facility, but many residents think more is needed.

"The indoor facility study we did has really been a hot topic," she said. "It's been coming up for five, six, seven years, and I think that is the one that will be exciting if we can figure out where it could be located and how to pay for it."

The independent planning firm that assisted the district in its recent long-range planning process gave the district a C+ when it came to the condition of the parks and suggested the facilities could use some improvements. Those improvements also would come with a price tag, of course, for a district with a roughly $15 million annual operating budget. Rogers said the cost of capital improvements at new or existing facilities would increase district expenditures - and that could require taxpayer approval through a property tax referendum question.

"Before we did that, we would be out continuing to talk to the community about what they would support and at what type of a level," Rogers said. "The question is, if the community wants to really raise level of service provided by the park district there may be a need for them to decide to fund it at that level."

Part of the funding answer may come from partnerships with the private sector, and Rogers said the district has begun having conversations with businesses and organizations that might be willing and able to help. In the meantime, he said the district continues to acquire small parcels of land, most recently near Berens Park, near East End Park and near Glos Memorial Park.

Playground renovations also are under way at Plunkett Park, with plans for a grand opening Nov. 4. "One of the most exciting things that came out of this whole study was that 88 percent of all households use the parks," Rogers said. "That's a tremendous, tremendous number and I think it reflects the support the community has for the park district and what it desires from it."

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October 4, 2017


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