Evanston aldermen Monday are scheduled to approve a memorandum of understanding with the Friends of the Robert Crown Center, the volunteer fundraising group for the new recreation center now under construction on Main Street.

The agreement says the volunteer, non-profit group has already raised $12 million in cash and pledges toward the projected $53 million cost of the project and has a goal of raising an additional $3 million.

It commits the city to completing the center’s construction — including a 5,900 square foot branch library, a 10,700 square foot gym, a 5,100 square foot child care suite, two 200×85 ice rinks with ten locker rooms and a running track, art room, fitness room/dance studio by Dec. 1 this year and three outdoor turf fields by July 2020.

In return the FRCC commits to delivering $5 million in cash to the city next month and an additional $1 million in February 2020

Then for the next nine years the city will annually invoice the Friends group for 95 percent of its available funds.

The agreement specifies that the first $6 million in donations will be used to fund construction, the next $9 million will be used to make debt service payments and any additional funds would be deposited into a maintenance fund for the center.

Assuming aldermen approve the agreement, it should provide an additional legal barrier to calls by some residents to scale back the project in the interest of reducing the amount of debt the city last year agreed to take on to finance the center’s construction.

A rendering of planned signage for the lobby.

The aldermen are also scheduled to approve two naming rights agreements with major donors to the center.

  • Wintrust Bank will have outdoor turf field #3 named the “Wintrust Field” and the indoor multi-purpose room #103 named the “Wintrust Conference Room” in return for its donation of $500,000 to be spread over eight years.
  • Valli Produce will have the lobby named the “Valli Produce Fresh Market Lobby” and have a dasherboard  sign in rink one at the center in return for its donation of $250,000 to be spread over 15 years.

Six other major donor agreements — with the Arie & Ida Crown Memorial, Evanston Soccer Association, Evanston Hockey Association, Northwestern University, Beacon Academy and Chicago Young Americans Hockey Association — are still being negotiated.

The aldermen are scheduled to consider issuance of a planned $15 million in general obligation bonds to complete the debt financing for the new Crown Center, along with another $15 million — some funded by water and sewer fees — for the rest of this year’s capital project spending.

That is projected to raise the city’s unabated general obligation debt — the portion funded by the property tax — to just under $150.6 million, from $134.5 million at the start of this year.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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