Evanston alderment tonight are scheduled to vote on whether to seek final proposals from two firms interested in building and operating a new Robert Crown Recreation Center in the city.

Top: A rendering showing an aerial view of the McCaffrey design as seen from Main Street looking northwest. Above: A ground-level rendering of the Crown Park group’s design looking northwest from Main Street at the east side of the building.

More than two years since the city first solicited requests for qualifications from companies for the project, a review committee composed of aldermen, Parks and Recreation Board members and city staff is recommending that the city discard one of three proposals it’s received and move forward with the other two.

McCaffrey’s proposal includes a full gymnasium with seating for spectators, as shown in a rendering above. The Community Partnership proposal would instead provide two basketball courts, without the spectator seating.

A memo from the committee says a proposal submitted by Evanston Sports Partnership LLC was non-responsive to the city’s proposal, but that plans from Crown Park Community Partnership and McCaffery Evanston Recreation LLC were “partially responsive to the city’s design and financial requirements.

So the committee recommends asking the Crown Park and McCaffery groups to develop final proposals.

The Community Partnership proposal includes a rooftop garden place area.

The Crown Park Communiy Parknership involves financing from William Blair & Company, construction by Walsh Construction Company and facility management by Club-Sports Consulting Group.

McCaffrey Evanston Recreation has McCaffery Intrests Inc as its developer and manager with construction by W.E. O’Neil Construction Company and Advanced Arenas Inc. as the operator of the facility.

Copies of the three proposals are available on the city’s website.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Same space?

    I just returned to Evanston and am late to the party on this – it would be in the same space, correct?

    1. Location

      Hi Anna,

      The plan is to build the new rec center west of the existing one, closer to the corner of Dodge and Main. Then,  after the new building is finished, the existing center would be demolished and that area would be used for parking.

      — Bill

  2. Indoor field please!

    Have not looked at the plans. Do any include an indoor field to be used for soccer/baseball in the winter

    Evanston needs an indoor space like this.

    1. Agreed! I think it is safe to

      Agreed! I think it is safe to say that there are far more people out there of all ages who play baseball and soccer than there are that play hockey. Evanston hockey has been hemorrhaging for years and I believe figure skating's ice time are subsidised/discounted. I certainly hope the developers have done their due diligence because from my research, there a lot more people ready and willing to pay for indoor field time than pay for ice time. Finally, I keep hearing people say Evanston is in desparate need for indoor rec facilities to get the kids off the street… Guess what? Kids who play hockey are not the ones we want to encourage to get off the streets! Finally, guess which building of the city's consumes the most power? Hint: Its really cold!!

  3. I like both proposals

    A quick glance of both plans – I like them both but lean more toward McCaffery.

    I hope aldermen vote yes to seek the final proposals. This would be great for Evanston!

    It's too bad none of these proposals include indoor swimming.

  4. A similar project on the north side?

    Will there be a similar northside recreation center? Chandler is not even in the ballpark. Northside people deserve an equal center.

    1. A lot of people don’t know

      A lot of people don't know this, but there were actually talks of a new rec-center on the north end of Evanston. However, your aldermen used up all their favors to save your branch libarary, instead.

      1. Where?

        I didn't hear about this. Where on the north end of town did they consider?

        The Council did vote to close the branch libraries. 

      2. Used favors to save the library?

        Eric, I'm wondering where you got this information?  I have followed the library debate very closely as well as the Chandler Newberger issues. Not once have I ever heard of a potential north side facility, nor have I heard of "favors" being done by the aldermen. 

          The north side aldermen, Tendham and Grover, did always vote in favor of the north branch.  However, neither of them ever spoke passionately in favor of the branch, on record or at a council meeting.  Nor did either of them take an active stand on any issue relating to Chandler. 

        I'm wondering what you mean when you say they used up their favors? 

        If you have any information on a potential north side center that was passed up, please post.  As far as I know, the only talks related to chandler was taht the city was thinking of selling the facility- with a potential growth being financed by private developers. 

        What do you know that the rest of us don't? Please share.

  5. What about an outdoor public pool?

    Kids cannot take public swimming lessons in this town which is a shame.  Yes, the Ys are great but there is something about going to your local swimming pool that is priceless.  Wilmette is overrun with Evanston residents and likely going to increase their non-resident fees.  Skokie is far – kids should be able to bike to swim and the lake is not conducive to swimming lessons.  Especially with our sweltering summers, this would be fantastic and a great equalizer for our underprivileged kids who don't get to go the neighboring suburbs or clubs to swin.

    The E150 group was tasked with this but the shut down the pool option out of the box – and are only focusing on swimming lessons at current indorr spaces.   wonder if it has anything to do with the YMCA being on the committee!!

    1. Ditto and agree on the

      Ditto and agree on the pool!   I thought E150 wanted to promote h20 safety and swimming for all.  I saw a recent announcement that they were targeting only one or two grades. 

      With the proximity of Lake Michigan and unfortunate drowning incidents almost annually, h20 safety and swimming ability is a key life skill Evanston kids and adults need!

      Additionally, the Wilmette pool is busy from early am (i.e. 5:30 am) unti late evening (after closing) with Masters swim teams and other swim teams all competing for pool time, in addition to family swim, public swim and Wilmette swim lessons and fitness classes.  An Evanston pool could potentially generate additional city revenue with a wide variety of water based fitness programming.

  6. Crown park group

    What is that "BRARY" on the side of the building in the Crown Park Group's design?

    Are people scheming to build another branch library?

    1. Library

      Including space for a branch library was one of the ideas the city included in its request for proposals.

      — Bill

  7. Another Mess

    TAke a look at the proposals not the pretty pictures.  Its a mess that goes in all directions.  There is no adult leadership here. 

    Last year Wally claimed he could get this built at NO cost to taxpayers, one would think Wally does  not understand reality or he knows it was not true, but to move it forward just lie.

    Whats interesting there is no program, the city wants to operate it if its their own facility, but wants a developer to pay. This is a joke.

    I posted a cartoon on this over a year ago, the city did not have to spend close to $200,000 to tell us this wasn't a free deal.

    I am not pro or con on building a new faciity, just deal with fiscal reality, last year one council member cried he could not pay any more for his kids figure skating so where is the revenue coming from for this new faciity?

  8. Too bad city’s not looking at indoor soccer plan

    The Evanston Sports partnership LLC is the only plan with an indoor turf space option.  I like this proposal best as it keeps a large ice rink, a small ice rink, a large indoor turf space (that could be converted for indoor shows/events too), and a basketball area.

    The LLC group appears to have done a market analysis that says that 3 ice arenas are not as in demand as a large indoor turf area.  Personally, I agree with this as I drive my children 40 minutes away every week to practice soccer in the winter.  An indoor turf space could also be used by many different sports organizations in the city.

    I also like that an indoor turf space could be used for other community events like concerts.   Ice arenas, while also needed, can not be used by multiple sports or for events.

    Too bad that the city didn't respond to this plan.

  9. Skate park please

    Hey, how about a park for the sport that there is NO facility for in our city?  That is skateboarding.  

    If your city does not HAVE a skatepark, your city IS a skatepark.  Want skateboarders to have somewhere to practice their sport?  Press for a park!  

    The plans look great and I have no preference, but there are other places in this city to play baseball, basketball, tennis, and to check out books.  There is NO PLACE to skateboard legally in Evanston (except the sidewalks – and that is dangerous for pedestrians).  

  10. Indoor facility

    Year round indoor facilites do not make money in the Spring or Summer, just ask any of the hundreds of facility operators around the country.

    When weather gets nice, teams want to play outside, that is why many facility operators have developed the dome concept. In the Spring and Summer you have an outdoor facility, come Fall and Winter the dome goes up and you have a full size indoor facility. Head North to Highland Park in the winter on a weekend or weeknight, and see how packed the dome is on 41.

    If Evanston is going to build any turf fields, they need to explore the option of doming it in the winter, there are plenty of teams waiting in line for an indoor facility.

    For $200.00 the city can join US Indoor Sports Association, the leading association for indoor facility owners and meet and talk with thousands of companies, cities and individuals that run some of the most successful facilites across the country.  You can even buy a used dome in the classifieds.

  11. Change is good and necessary

    I love the idea but we really need to focus on some of the other sports that are of interest to the kids and families in Evanston. Everyone is not playing soccer or Lacrosse. We need more outdoor space to properly accomodate the Football teams. What about a dedicated facility for gymnastics?? It's ridiculous that Evanston families have to go to Wilmette, Glenview and elsewhere to be able to participate in those sports.

    The Y is nice but a alternative indoor space would make all the difference.

    Again, I love the idea of expanding and re-creating spaces but let's be sure to make space for some of everything and not just the same ole thing like Evanston has such a bad rep for doing.

  12. Two rinks

    Two full sized rinks and a practice rink? Last I heard, one of the closest rinks to Evanston (Heartland) was struggling to sell ice time. You all do realize that it costs in excess of $3,000 to play hockey at the highschool level. I question the ROI on two and a half sheets of ice as well as the percentage of Evanston residents that will benefit from such a facility….

    1. Rinks in parks

      Granted the time for use was limited and ice not always the best, but several parks use to have rinks in winter and I rarely saw anyone using them for scaking or hockey—at least in last few years they were put there. Twenty years I do them being used.

      Was there too little interest ?

      You do see some private residences with their own rinks so it must be possible to keep them up.

      Did the city not keep them up ?

      What about cooperating with NU for public skating at Ryan and at Norris [I think they already allow the public at Norris but not hockey] ?

  13. Field space

    Where will all of the softball, football, and youth soccer teams that use the space now go to play? I live a block away and those fields are always in use.

    The adult softball leagues were already kicked out of James Park when it was renovated. Where will we go next?

    1. Adult softball teams

      My husband plays on two of the teams that play in the Robert Crowne park area.  It is true that the city is doing a lot for kids, but what about adults?  As Emilie K states above, the leagues have already been kicked out of James Park which is overrun with childrens' sports and now it looks like they won't have a space at Crowne either.  Will it be a duel to the end for space at Chute Middle School?  Oh, wait, that won't work either because the school has been leasing out their field for kids sports.

      Aldermen – what is the plan to have actual green park space for adults to use for softball or even a simple picnic?  Try having a picnic at James Park and you get slammed in the side of the head with a sports ball.

  14. Willing to pay more for more

    I am a Chicago resident that drives to Evanston to use the Robert Crown Ice Arena because it is the only rink within 100 miles that has an evening freestyle for figure skating.  I can only skate at McFetridge in the early hours of the morning since their freestyle times are so lousy.  I pay out of city rates for my package ice and the ISI class I'm taking – and am willing to so that I can skate at night.  I would love more night time ice and would be happy to pay more to the city of Evanston if they implemented more night time ice for figure skaters. While I'm in Evanston, I often shop there so you are getting my "tourist' dollars too.

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