On April 4, residents will have the opportunity to determine the long-range future of parks and recreation in La Grange Park by voting on two ballot measures that will decide if the Park District should add a gymnasium with recreational amenities at 1501 Barnsdale Road.
Statement regarding the Doings Article the was published 3/9/2023:
The Community Park District is aware of the referendum article written and published by The Doings on March 9 and would like to clarify the following: -The tax impact stated in the article is per month -The bond issuance would not include phase 2 of the recreation center expansion. Instead, it would provide the infrastructure to build a green roof and new administrative offices when financially feasible. If you have any additional questions, please contact email@example.com.
Adding a gymnasium and new lobby would provide additional community-building recreational activities and generate the funding needed to expedite capital improvements in the parks throughout La Grange Park. To do so, the park district is asking residents to consider two funding measures to make this possible, and both need to pass to initiate the project. Adding a park-district run gymnasium to La Grange Park has been discussed since before 1998. The park district's recent Master Plan process indicated that the addition of indoor recreational space is now a priority for La Grange Park residents. The Community Park District (CPD) is looking for direction from residents to determine the long-range future of recreational operations in La Grange Park.
The proposal is focused on the following site and facility upgrades:
Adding a gymnasium with recreational amenities to the existing recreation center
The gymnasium would include one basketball court and flexible athletic space that can be used for a wide range of indoor athletic opportunities such as pickleball, baseball/softball, soccer, badminton, etc.
Addition of indoor walking space
Addition of a concession windows and restrooms with outdoor access which eliminates the need for the existing outbuilding which is past its useful life and has significant structural and ADA accessibility issues.
The gymnasium would be built with infrastructure that could support the development of a green roof for additional seasonal recreational opportunities.
Adding a new lobby and entrance to the recreation center
Allow for a secured entrance for Ready Teddy Preschool AND summer camp.
This will provide a better customer service area
Improve security for the facility
Provide homework nooks and comfortable seating for visitors
Parking lot and adjacent park redesign - Replace the existing playground - Improve gathering spaces in Hanesworth Park
The Community Park District has been made aware that there are amateur schematics being circulated showing that a proposed gymnasium with a stage will not fit on the existing property. It is important to note that the images and information produced to support this statement have not been created by an architect and do not utilize a plat of survey. Furthermore, the author uses aerial satellite and/or Google images and does not account for existing roof overhang and other architectural elements of the original structure.
During the Master Planning process, the Community Park District utilized a team of professionals including landscape architects and an architectural firm specializing in the design of public facilities to analyze and incorporate community feedback in order to propose solutions that best meet our community’s needs and are financially feasible for the park district. Prior to deciding to go to referendum, we engaged a second architect to confirm probable cost estimates and to ensure that we are proposing something that can fit within La Grange Park's means.
During the planning process, architects developed a recreation center expansion concept that included a walking track, locker rooms, a new lobby, and gymnasium. When the original concept was presented to the community, it was requested that we incorporate more opportunities for youth and adult cultural arts programming and community events. Other feedback indicated that a full-service locker room would not be necessary. At that point, the architects added the stage to the back of the building but did not reduce the size of the proposed locker area.
The plan now available to residents is schematic in nature to indicate what is provided in the addition and roughly where the addition is going. Adjustments to the plan will be made as we work through the design and zoning approval process.
In the spirit of consistency and transparency, we will use the same schematic throughout our communications and conversations regarding the referendum, but we are happy to show how different variations of the same amenities can fit on the existing property (click here for additional schematics).
If both measures pass, we will work with the community on finishes and details to ensure that we are providing the best facility we can within our limited resources.
The village acknowledged La Grange Park’s indoor recreational space needs in its 2006 Strategic Plan and is aware of the proposed expansion. The Village Code states that park district field houses or recreation centers are to be considered a “Park/Playground” and thereby are within permitted uses for Open Space Zoning Districts.
The expansion includes re-envisioning Hanesworth Park, including the removal of the existing concession and restroom building, a redesign of the play area, and more. This re-envisioned space, in addition to the existing ballfields and our proximity to Robinhood Park, will provide a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities for summer campers. If the measures pass, summer campers will also have a more active space to play during heat breaks and rain days. Currently, they are restricted to the multi-purpose room and classrooms.
Why are there only concepts? Why not present the complete construction plans for residents to vote on?
The architectural and engineering fees for a project of this scope would be over $900,000. The board and staff are committed to being good stewards of public resources and it is not fiscally responsible nor in the community’s best interest to invest nearly $1 million in A/E fees for a project that has not been approved by the residents. The plan presented is schematic in nature to indicate what is provided in the addition and roughly where it will go.
Staff has worked with the conceptual amenities to provide information regarding the financial, recreational, and community-building impact this expansion would have on our community. We look forward residents definitively deciding the future of recreation here in La Grange Park on April 4.
I don't like the proposed location, why not build somewhere else?
The Community Park District is a separate taxing and governing body from the Village of La Grange Park. We must adhere to the same zoning rules, ordinance, and Village plan that every other La Grange Park business and resident is subject to. The Village of La Grange Park’s strategic plan supports evaluating the “need, benefit and funding requirements for a Phase II expansion (gymnasium) to the new Recreation Center,” as well as encourages the "Park District to expand Hanesworth Park to the south.” Click to view the Village of La Grange Park's Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
The reality is, there is not another location or opportunity where the park district is confident the required zoning changes would be approved, as converting any property to a tax-exempt status would impact tax diversification within the community and limit the community's ability to improve infrastructure and adequately serve the residents of La Grange Park.
Moreover, building an additional stand-alone facility at an offsite location would increase staffing needs and logistical costs of providing recreational opportunities.
The Praxair property is the perfect place for a recreation center! Why not build there?
The Praxair property located on 26th Street is not for sale. It is also currently undergoing significant environmental remediation. There is no knowing what type of investment would be needed for additional remediation to safely conduct recreational activities on that property, nor when the property might become available, nor how much it might cost to purchase. Furthermore, zoning changes to accommodate parks and recreation are not guaranteed.
Why would I invest in parks and recreation when streets and sewers need to be improved?
It is essential to remember that the Community Park District of La Grange Park and the Village of La Grange Park are two separate taxing bodies with separate governing boards. Our operating revenue is comprised of 40% program fees and 60% tax income. The park district owns and maintains six parks (Memorial, Hanesworth, Beach Oak, Yena, Stone Monroe, and Robinhood), a recreation center, parks garage, and more. It is responsible for providing recreational opportunities and parkland for the community. If residents choose to invest in more robust recreational infrastructure, the park district will be able to increase our capacity to develop revenue generating recreational opportunities like After School Care, Adult Basketball, and more. The April 4 election will definitively decide the scope of recreational services available to residents, individuals, and families in La Grange Park.
Please Explain How You Can Generate Revenue for Park Improvements When Paying For a $10 Million Building:
On April 4th, the park district is asking residents two questions: 1.) Will you invest $10.7 million in expanding the existing recreation center; and 2.) Are you willing to incur a small tax rate increase that will generate an additional $150,000 annually for the park district. If BOTH these measures pass, the park district will move forward with expanding the Recreation Center.
We will borrow up to $10.7 million (or up to what is legally allowed at the time) to build the gymnasium. Taxes on a home with a fair market value of $300,000 would increase by $17 per month for the next 20 years. This is the revenue that would be dedicated to paying down the bonds. Program revenue generated at the facility would not be used to pay down the bonds.
Simultaneously, taxes on a home with a fair market value of $300,000 would see an additional increase of $3 per month in perpetuity. This would allow the park district to generate an additional $150,000 to cover initial start-up staffing costs, utilities, and supplies while we work on launching new programming. Once the facility becomes self-sufficient, this additional $150,000 can be reallocated to park maintenance (our annual park maintenance budget is currently $314,000, which is a 21% increase from the FY 18/19 budget).
Once the building is open and operational, revenue generated from programming would offset the overhead costs of the facility. Any additional revenue outside of that required by our fund balance policy can go towards our capital fund to improve the parks and facilities.
How Do You Know You Can Generate More Revenue?
The Recreation Fund currently covers all the operating expenses for the existing facility at 1501 Barnsdale. This includes 4 full time recreation staff (+benefits), approximately 40 part time staff, building utilities, supplies, maintenance, and more. The park district currently levies approximately $111,000 to support the Recreation Fund. This is the total amount of tax dollars dedicated to creating recreation services including free concerts, special events, low-cost senior programming and more. We anticipate that at the end of this FY, the Recreation Fund will generate approximately $790,000 in revenue (including the tax revenue) and end with $97,000 in surplus. If the park district had access to additional indoor space, the latent demand for recreational services in La Grange Park coupled with our strategic cost recovery strategies will allow us to grow our margins and generate additional revenue for capital improvements.
The Community Park District has a phenomenal relationship with D102 and hosts the majority of our Fall, Winter, and Spring programs at Park Jr. High. However, should the school district need the space we currently occupy, the opportunities we offer would no longer be available. Currently, we host the following at D102 facilities:
Footlight Players Youth Theater Performance: We offer 2 productions with 4 performances each year. Each production attracts 80-100 youth actors for each performance. Not to mention, hundreds (300+) spectators come out to watch each performance!
Adult Sports are at Park Jr. High! Volleyball, Wiffleball, and our new Indoor Pickleball Leagues are all held at Park Jr. High
Spring Dance Recital: Our youth dance program attracts hundreds of participants and their capstone performance is at the theater at Park Jr. High.
Saturday Morning Sports: Our youth instructional athletic classes are all held at Park Jr. High.
No! If the referendum passes, the park district would continue our relationship with the school districts and offer NEW and expanded programming like After School Care, expanded pickleball, open gym, and expanded summer camp. PLUS we'd be able to run recreational programming like Senior Movies and Preschool or Yoga and Dance classes simultaneously.
If both measures pass, La Grange Park residents with a home that has a fair market value of $300,000 would see $20/month increase in their tax bill. A home with a fair market value of $500,000 would see a $33/month increase in their tax bill.
Despite managing and maintaining 26 acres, 6 parks, a recreation facility, parks maintenance facility, and employing up to 8 full time and 45-50 part time employees each year, the Community Park District of La Grange Park levies less than the La Grange Park Library.
La Grange Park residents spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year at neighboring recreational facilities, and every one of those dollars goes directly into improving the parks and facilities in those communities. While the Community Park District of La Grange Park may never offer aquatic opportunities, we can bring back some of the money spent in other communities back home by offering open gym, indoor walking space, youth basketball developmental programming, after school programs, birthday parties, group exercise classes, and more. This revenue would then go back into our parks and facilities, making La Grange Park a better place to live, work, and play.
There is little to no open space left in La Grange Park. The Community Park District board and staff worked hard to develop a smart design that would allow for future expansion, up! The existing plan provides infrastructure that would allow us to add a green roof to the top of the proposed gymnasium as well as administrative and meeting space above the new lobby. This smart design would free up space to renovate the entire existing facility to expand early childhood and youth programming rooms (more preschool, more summer camp, more after school!), AND offer additional active recreational space for anything from soccer to yoga to even possibly a playground on the roof.
First and foremost, there isn't a lot of space left in La Grange Park. Forest Road School is arguably the closest "Center" of La Grange Park, and while 1501 Barnsdale is pretty far north in the 2.5 square miles that make up La Grange Park, we are evenly centered east to west, making it as equitable a location as possible. Furthermore, with the district's limited resources, it would not be possible to staff two recreation locations. Lastly, the Village of La Grange Park has a comprehensive land-use plan that clearly defines areas they would support recreational activities, and Hanesworth Park tops that list.
On April 21, 1953, the voters of La Grange Park passed referendum to issue a $200,000 bond and invest in the construction of an amphitheater, tennis courts, playground, two baseball diamonds, and a brick field house in Memorial Park.
The Community Park District went to referendum in April of 1998, asking for a permanent 13-cent increase in the corporate fund rate, from 10 to 23 cents per $100 assessed valuation, on the ballot. The measure lost by 26 votes. The tax increase was put on the ballot again in November and lost by a margin of nearly 2-1.
Instead of asking for a blanket increase to permanently raise taxes, the Community Park District is asking 2 questions:
Should the park district issue $10.7 million in bonds to build a Gymnasium. This would result in a *temporary *tax increase that would cost the owner of a $500,000 home in La Grange Park $27.91/month and would expire after 20 years.
Should the park district increase the tax rate by 0.038% for the annual operation of the gymnasium and future park improvements? This would result in a permanent tax increase that would cost the owner of a $500,000 home in La Grange Park $5.08.
The tax rate referendum question is equal to a 3-cent ($0.03) increase in the tax rate, instead of the 13-cent ($0.13) increase requested in 1998. This would generate an additional $150,000 in annual tax revenue for operational costs like electricity, supplies and general maintenance. Once the gymnasium becomes self-sustaining, the $150,000 would be reallocated into park maintenance, along with any surplus revenue generated from programming.
Both questions need to pass to initiate the project.
Consolidated General Elections are incredibly important as they focus on local issues that directly impact your tax dollars and your quality of life. The Community Park District Board of Commissioners feels that this issue is important enough to be the focus of the April election. The next opportunity to ask this question would be the Presidential Election in November of 2024, where the issue of recreation in La Grange Park would have to compete with national issues for attention.