The fundraising effort behind building a new Robert Crown Center got a big boost today, with a $500,000 pledge of support from Beacon Academy, the Montessori-based high school located in downtown Evanston.

A rendering of one of two planned ice rinks at the new Robert Crown Center

Dr. Raju Ghate, treasurer of the Friends of the Robert Crown Center, the non-profit group raising funds to help pay for the new facility, says such landmark gifts have helped propel the new Crown Center “from a dream to a reality.”

The Beacon gift will be spread over seven years. The school has also committed to renting significant portions of athletic and community space for the first five years with an intention to renew for a second five years.

Beacon Academy head of school Jeff Bell

“Beacon Academy is proud to be a part of Evanston and proud to to fully participate in Evanston community life,” says Jeff Bell, head of school at Beacon, which is based in the Rotary International Building on Sherman Avenue. “This is a visionary project that will benefit all Evanstonians for generations.”

The gift will be recognized with prominent signage for the school inside the new facility’s gymnasium.

Lawrence Hemingway, director of the city’s Parks Department, says the increased capacity at the new Crown Center will mean the city will be albe to add Beacon to the programming schedule while still fully accomodating all other user groups.

A year ago, Northwestern University made a $1 million pledge to the Crown project in return for a similar assurance of access to the facility.

Friends of Robert Crown was founded in 2016 with an initial fundraising goal of $3 to $5 million. So far it has raised $10.3 million and is aiming for $15 million.

The original Robert Crown Community Center was built 43 years ago, funded by a significant donation from the Crown Family. It remains Evanston’s most-used sport and wellness facility.

Construction on the new Robert Crown Center is scheduled to start next summer, with completion by fall of 2019.

The current building won’t be torn down until the new building is done.

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