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City plans to test interest in new rink

Aldermen will be asked Monday to let city staff move forward with a test to see whether private developers are interested in building and operating a replacement for Evanston's Robert Crown Recreation Center.

Officials consider the 35-year-old ice rink to be under-sized for today's needs and in need of substantial repairs or reconstruction.

Aldermen will be asked Monday to let city staff move forward with a test to see whether private developers are interested in building and operating a replacement for Evanston's Robert Crown Recreation Center.

Officials consider the 35-year-old ice rink to be under-sized for today's needs and in need of substantial repairs or reconstruction.

Proposed reconfiguration of Robert Crown Park to accommodate the new recreation center.

The city, which loses about $200,000 a year on ice rink revenues of $1 million, believes a private operator can build a replacement for the facility at little or no cost to the city and make enough revenue operating it under a 30-year lease from the city to turn a profit.

The aldermen will be asked to approve issuance of a request for qualifications document, seeking firms interested in entering into further negotiations with the city over the project.

A draft version of the request for qualifications is available on the city website.

City Council will also be asked Monday to name three aldermen to a "procurement selection committee" that would also include members of the city's Playground and Recreation Board, city staff and other residents.

The proposed new recreation center would be significantly larger than the existing 61,000 square foot center.

Current layout of Robert Crown Park as shown in the draft RFQ document.

It would have larger ice rinks with greater spectator seating capacity, and would provide spectator seating in a new gym as well as 10,000 square feet of multipurpose recreation rooms, 5,000 square feet for a branch library and other ancillary services.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has told aldermen that he believes the public-private partnership model can succeed in providing a new recreation facility for the city without requiring the city to issue new debt to finance the project.

Aldermen last month sharply reduced planned capital spending for the fiscal year just getting underway after concluding that the city's debt burden is already too high, given the revenue problems caused by the recession.

The recreation board and other supporters of the ice rink have advocated rebuilding the facility for several years.

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