The non-profit raising funds for Evanston’s new Robert Crown Community Center is blaming foes of the project for a decision by Beacon Academy to pull out of an agreement to pay $500,000 toward its construction.

Friends of the Robert Crown Center, in a statement issued late Tuesday, say the foes, who call themselves Evanstonians for a Fiscally Responsible Robert Crown Plan, have engaged in “irresponsible attacks, full of half-truths and racially tinged memes.”

The statement says the group, four of whose members published an op-ed column in the Evanston RoundTable last December, sought “to slow down and even stop construction” of the Crown Center, a move the Friends say “would threaten the City’s bond rating and likely lead to lawsuits that would cost Evanston taxpayers millions.”

Despite the critics, aldermen voted in April to move ahead with the project and issue a second series of bonds to fund construction, which remains on schedule for the new center to open in December.

The Friends group says the opponents, who claim to seek fiscal responsibility, have cost the city not only Beacon’s $500,000 contribution toward construction of the center, but tens of thousands of dollars in operating revenue it would have received from the school reserving time at the center’s gymnasium.

The private Montessori high school had asked that the gym include signage with the schools “Trailblazers” team logo in return for its contribution.

Despite Beacon’s withdrawal, the Friends group says it has raised more than $12.1 million toward the $53 million project, including nearly $6 million in pledges already collected.

The statement says the Friends remain “committed to raising the rest of our $15 million stretch goal, even if it takes us years to do so.”

Update 4:40 p.m.: Objectors to Beacon’s deal with the city had focused many of their complaints on the schedule for gym usage requested by Beacon. And the school, in a letter sent to city officials Monday, blamed an inability to come up with an alternative schedule as their reason for withdrawing from the deal.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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