Evanston officials say public comment so far at meetings on the city’s indoor recreation needs has strongly favored the idea of collaborating with Evanston Township High School to build a new joint-use field house on the school campus.

Parks Director Doug Gaynor says about 20 people turned out at the Robert Crown Center Wednesday night to advocate for more space for the recreation programs they care about.

Attendance was sparse at a session Thursday night at the Chandler-Newberger Center, but the only speakers also supported the concept.

Carl Bova of 1322 Rosalee St. said letting community groups use the proposed new fieldhouse at the school “is a great idea. We ought to jump on it.”

Steve Reinfranck of 1416 Lee St. said he uses the skating rink at the Crown Center. He said the rink is extremely heavily used and that a new facility with two rinks is needed.

“I think it won’t take too many years before it would pay for itself,” Reinfranck said, “You’ve got a lot of competition for the space now.”

Gaynor says the Crown Center, now more than three decades old, has a variety of maintenance needs and structural issues as well as capacity problems.

A consultant’s report has estimated that basic repairs to the building would cost about $7 million and that to rebuild it from scratch, adding a second ice rink, a second gym and more meeting rooms would cost as much as $31 million, Gaynor said.

ETHS Finance Director Bill Stafford said the school board is developing a five-year capital improvement program. This week it approved the first $5 million dollar phase, which includes funding for artificial turf on the football field.

With that upgrade, Stafford said, community groups will be able to use the field when its not in use by the school, since the artificial turf can withstand much heavier use than a natural grass field.

Stafford said that the school board also wants to explore opportunities for collaboration on the proposed new field house.

“We have no preconceptions,” Stafford said, “I’m here to listen and get input and hopefully come out with a better solution.”

He said the school needs to expand its indoor recreation facilities beyond what’s available now in its aging field house.

The high school does not have its own ice rink, and high school students use the city’s rink at the Crown Center, located on Main Street east of Dodge Avenue.

A third public meeting on indoor recreation needs is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 1655 Foster St.

The city’s Playground and Recreation Board will then make a recommendation to the City Council’s Human Services Committee about whether to collaborate on the field house project with the school district.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. Robert Crown Meeting
    These meetings were poorly advertised. I became aware of them on Wednesday, the day of the Robert Crown Meeting. On such short notice I could not attend. The fate of RC will have a significant impact on the 9th ward. No e-mails were sent out to the residents of the 9th ward. It simply would have required e-mailing the information to our alderwoman and I am sure she would have sent a message out to her e-mail list. I don’t recall seeing anything on this website but may have missed it. A small advertisement in a newspaper that I infrequently receive was it for me. I personally care very much about the decisions that are going to be made about Robert Crown and am angered that more outreach isn’t being done to the community about the fate of this center. Why can’t the recreation board have the city set-up an area on the the city’s website where citizens can comment? Even if this had been better advertised still not everyone can attend and to offer an alternate way of having a voice to this discussion would be highly valued by this community.

    1. not quite the 9th
      without being too picky, robert crown is not in the 9th ward. it is across the street from it however. the city’s ward map makes is appear to be in the 4th ward — not quite sure — but perhaps adjacent to the 2nd ward, as well. i don’t question your contention that the design of robert crown will have an impact upon the 9th ward. or that, perhaps, there should have been better notification about the meeting. but the city typically sends out notices to the actual residents of the affected ward as well as the aldermen involved. in this case, i am under the impression that the city is soliciting input from several sites in town.

      i also live in the 9th. but i don’t necessarily think that robert crown is going to have more effect upon my life than it will upon, say, people who live in the 3rd ward and happen to take ice skating lessons at the center. with as well attended as the programs are there, i think it is a city resource and all can equally lay claim to it and its future. i would not, for instance, think that members of the 1st ward should have more to say about the downtown library than we should in the 9th ward. seems that it is a resource that has an equal effect upon all of our lives — and unfortunately all of our tax bills.

    2. Another Meeting
      I think these were better publicized than you realize – I saw notices in several locations about them. However, I think your point about having an online bulletin board or even an e-mail contact address for the public to share ideas and opinions is a good one, and I hope the Recreation Dept. will consider it.

      You will have one last opportunity to attend a public meeting. There were meetings at each of the three community centers, but you may comment but any of them at any meeting. I encourage you to attend the next one (and to tell your alderman and your neighbors):

      The Evanston Recreation Board will hold a public meeting to discuss Evanston’s recreation needs at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, June 4, at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Center, 1655 Foster St.

      Topics to be discussed include:

      * How should we address Robert Crown Center infrastructure issues?
      * What are the potential benefits of coordinating our long-range plans?
      * How could rebuilding the ETHS Fieldhouse factor into the City’s recreational needs?

  2. Robert Crown is important to the 9th ward
    I live in the 9th ward. I have taken a pottery class at Robert Crown. My children have taken ice skating classes and preschool classes at Robert Crown. My children play soccer at Robert Crown. I vote at Robert Crown. I attend events at Robert Crown. The last time discussions came up about RC there was the consideration of relocating the center to another site. There has also been discussion about including the south branch library at Robert Crown, which my family of avid readers would absolutely love. RC is the only community center within easy walking distance of my home in the 9th ward. You bet that it’s important to me and my family is affected by it (and yes much more than a household by Central street or downtown or the lake, etc.). The whole city should be invited to discussions, however, special consideration does need to be given to the people in the 9th ward who live by and USE Robert Crown.
    Let’s focus on the problem. The younger generations in Evanston use technology to communicate, to read the news and many more aspects of our lives. The city has a responsibility to be responsive to it’s citizens. It’s time for them to use modern technology to address the needs of it’s community.

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