It was a million dollar night—and then some. Last Friday’s fundraiser for a new Robert Crown Center in Evanston, organizers say, exceeded all expectations by yielding over $1.2 million for a new ice rink, turf park and public library.

The event at the Evanston Art Center, which was emceed by ABC-7’s Ravi Baichwal, featured the presentation of a special “silver shovel” award to Rocky Wirtz, owner and chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks.


Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz accepts the “silver shovel” award from Isaiah Ricketts and Molly Riley. (Steve Leonard photo) 

Wirtz thanked the overflow crowd, and spoke of the power of youth sports and recreational facilities in building strong communities.

“On behalf of the Chicago Blackhawks, we are proud to be here tonight to support this project, and what it will mean for the Evanston community and the expansion of youth hockey opportunities for kids throughout the region,” said Wirtz. “While we cannot say that every kid will make it to the NHL, we can say that if not for community rinks, they wouldn’t have the opportunity to try.”

The program also included remarks from Evanston Public Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons and a video showcasing the impact of the project for a variety of community constituencies.

“We will transform the new Robert Crown Center into a place that develops the whole self: mind, body and spirit,” said Danczak Lyons. “We have diverse interests and backgrounds, diverse needs and goals. But we are one community, coming together to work, play and learn in our new Crown jewel.”

Revenue from the event’s ticket sales, sponsorships, live auction items, and other donations totaled $613,500. With every dollar the campaign raises currently being matched by an anonymous matching grant, the total amount the event generated was $1,227,000. The campaign has been actively soliciting gifts against the major matching commitment since securing it last year. 

Friends of the Robert Crown Center (FRCC) is the community group spearheading fundraising efforts to build a new $30 million Robert Crown Library, Turf Park and Community Center in a public-private partnership with the City of Evanston and the Evanston Public Library.

FRCC is a nonprofit charitable organization formed in 2016. Its application for IRS 501(c)(3) designation is currently pending, and the organization is permitted to solicit and receive gifts during this review period. All contributions to the Friends of the Robert Crown Center are tax-deductible.

The City of Evanston and the Evanston Public Library have available bond financing of $10 million and $2.5 million respectively, leaving $17.5 million to be raised through private donations, sponsorships and institutional program partnerships. 

The Robert Crown Community Center was built in 1974. Its construction was largely funded by a significant lead donation from The Crown Family.

The center serves as a venue for dozens of sports, including hockey, speed skating, figure skating, soccer, football, lacrosse, and basketball. It also hosts summer camps, preschool activities, tutoring initiatives, lunch and nutrition programs, community meetings and other public services. The Crown Center is the City of Evanston’s most used health and wellness facility.

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