By Alexandra Chachkevitch – June 19, 2014
The Northbrook Park District may share space with the Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association if voters approve the idea for converting a local Five Seasons Sports Club into a community recreation center, officials say.
Park district officials say they still are gathering input from the community on the plan to pay about $20.3 million for the 115,000-square-foot facility at 1300 Techny Road and the 17 acres of land on which it sits.
Voters in the district ultimately would have to support the idea through a referendum request on the November ballot. Officials say residents have been asking for such an amenity for years,
If the deal goes through, it could mean a new home for the Northern Suburban Special Recreation Association, which provides recreational activities for people with disabilities in 13 North Shore communities.
Last year, the agency passed a $4.6 million plan to move its headquarters, citing space limitations of its present location in a Northbrook industrial park.
“It basically hits our goal square on the nose,” said Craig Culp, executive director of the recreation association. “We’re excited for this opportunity.”
Culp added that Northbrook Park District has been partnered with the recreation agency since the association’s creation in 1970.
In total, the group has intergovernmental partnerships with 10 park districts and three municipalities in communities such as Lake Forest, Highland Park, Deerfield, Wilmette and Glenview.
Culp said the agency is hoping to have about 15,000 square feet of space for its future headquarters. The present offices are about 8,300 square feet in size, Culp said.
Culp said if the deal goes through, the recreation association likely would negotiate an agreement with the park district through which it would acquire some space in the building for its purposes.
“There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered,” Culp said, adding that time will show what community members want to support.
Following several open houses the park district held at Five Season at the end of May, officials are hosting three public meetings on June 26 to present several design concepts for the building’s renovations and what they would cost, according to a recent park district release.
The first meeting will be held between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at the Northbrook Sports Center, 1730 Pfingsten Road. Two more meetings will be held in the evening at the Leisure Center, 3323 Walters Ave., with one starting at 5:30 p.m. and another starting at 7 p.m. People can attend any meeting.
So far, the input from the public has been similar to what the park district learned through community surveys in previous several years, said Ann Ziolkowski, the park district’s spokeswoman.
“There is definitely a chunk of people who feel like they want something similar to what Glenview (Park District) has,” Ziolkowski said, referring to Glenview’s Park Center at 2400 Chestnut Ave.
Among amenities that some residents said they want the center to have would include an indoor running and walking track, basketball courts, and an indoor turf space for soccer and lacrosse.
Ziolkowski said community members seemed split on the question of the 16 different tennis courts located at the facility presently. Some residents said they want to repurpose some of those courts for other fitness activities, while community members that are members of the gym said they want to leave the courts as they are.
Community members are encouraged to share the opinion on the park district’s idea by filling out an online survey, which will be open until June 20, and by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-897-6180.
Longtime Northbrook resident Judy Hughes said she looks forward to the community center having several offerings. She said she doesn’t want the facility to have as many tennis courts as it now has.
“I think there definitely should be more space for an indoor walking track,” Hughes said, adding that she is excited about the park district’s plan overall.
But other Northbrook residents said they have mixed feelings about the community center idea.
“To me, it’s a complex question,” said Northbrook resident David Valentine.
On one hand, Valentine said he wouldn’t want the Five Seasons building to become vacant and it would be nice to reuse the facility in some way. But at the same time, he said, he doesn’t see a need for a community recreation center in the village.
“It’s a lot of money,” Valentine said. “I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Valentine said he attends the North Suburban YMCA, which is about two miles west of Five Season, and he believes the creation of a community center would negatively impact the YMCA’s operations.
Park district officials said they are looking to partner with different agencies in the community, including the YMCA, and have pointed out previously that the YMCA serves a wider clientele, which includes more than a dozen villages on the North Shore in addition to Northbrook.
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