Dozens of Evanston residents offered suggestions Tuesday evening for a wide array of featues in a new Robert Crown Center — including that it should have a skybox-like restaurant and bar area over the ice rink from which parents could watch their kids skate.

The ideas were presented during a community meeting in the gym at the current Crown Center with consultants from Woodhouse Tinucci Architects and City of Evanston staff taking notes and providing responses.

Marty Lyons.

Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons said the idea of a restaurant with liquor service had been part of an earlier concept for a new recreation center — when the city had hoped to have a private developer build and operated it for the city.

He said it could be a tougher sell in the current model — which would have the city build and operate the center — but “it’s on the table for consideration.”

He suggested that the city would likely contract out any restaurant operation to a private company.

Residents offered dozens of other ideas, from including diaper changing tables in the restrooms to adding sidewalks along the Lee Street periphery of the site.

More space for art classes, indoor tennis courts, a roof-top garden and an indoor swimming pool were among other suggestions made.

Several residents of the neighborhood directly adjacent to the center voiced concerns about how to handle traffic and parking around the new, larger facility.

Nothing’s been designed yet, the residents were told, and the city wants to get as much feedback as possible before starting the formal design process — which is probably still a couple months away.

Private fundraising has generated $7.5 million in commitments for the Crown project so far, with additional fundraising planned over the next several months.

The city and the library board have committed to issue bonds totalling $12.5 million to partially fund the new center.

Tentative plans call for having two ice rinks, a branch library, and an indoor running track plus space for a pre-school program and multi-purpose meeting rooms. 

Related documents

Crown Center project page on the city website

Slide presentation from Tuesday’s meeting

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Bowling Alley ? Finally ?

    This has been brought up many times but I assume too many residents consider it too ‘Joe Six Pack’ to every want in Evanston.  Well a lot of people would disagree.

    Whether at Crown or downtown, it would be welcomed and bring in business, jobs and life and TAXes to Evanston. With way the Council likes to spend on everything, we sure need the income !

    Maybe replace one of the theaters in the planning [they always seem to be planning more of them] or even one of the existing [though certain to fail] theaters.

    1. Bowling alley would

      Bowling alley would potentially be a good repurposing of the space that wholefoods just moved out of at Chicago Ave. and Greenleaf. I wouldn’t support putting one in the robert crown center, given the amount of space it would take up relative to the relatively low # of people that could use it at one time; I just don’t think it would be worth the large footprint. 

  2. No to hard liquor

    Ask yourself, would you take your kids to a bar? The limits should be beer, wine, and coolers. Hard liquor would set a bad example for the children.

    1. Liquor at new Crown Center

      Great to have a new facilty. I may not live to see it. Most parents who drink in a bar, drink at home. If you don’t want your kids to drink, smoke pot, or do cocain, or smoke cigarettes, Don’t do it yourself, or let friends do it on your property. That is the best any parent can do. Be a good example, and talk with your own.

      1. The Devil in Evanston (Levy Center News)

        Would love to see a new facility saying HELL NO to drugs, alcohol or any other substance that is detrimental to our youth.  Parents who indulge will also condone the use among their kids.   An excuse to promote this behavior to offset the deficit in city budget is not in the best interest to the community and should not be considered.  A drug/alcohol destination city where underages are present or go to school is not what Evanston should become.  It has destroyed many a family and caused learning disabilities.  Those on city council should be removed who advocate and condone this way of life.  This will probably not be approved as a comment but needs to be said.

          1. I applaud you good person

            * Claps* That was single handedly one of the funniest and most historically best ways to dismiss that argument I have ever seen. As someone who has been to Europe many times I always find it a shock coming back here when we are told in schools and online that alcohol is a terrible and dangerous thing that the kids should never touch. While it is true having too much of it can kill you and cause damage beyond repair, if we just hide the kids from the drink it will do them no good. Once they go off to college the world of drinking is opened to them and they will have no idea how to manege themselves around alcohol. While in Europe the kids are taught early on what alcohol is and how to use it in moderation. So when they become an adult responsible drinking is like second nature to them

          2. missing the point

            This isn’t about kids’ behaviors they are learning from their home or parents.  Responsible, mature kids will know how to deal with life’s issues.  This is about the “need” for parents to have to drink at children’s programs……If an adult can’t last for about 1.5 hours without having to have alcohol, then they are the ones with problems.   Maybe there should be bars at kids’ ballet performances, choir groups, kids’ school plays, etc….jeez.  Get real!

          3. Need to get out more

            They do sell alcohol at many moviie and live theaters and in most cases children are attending or in the event.

          4. Just my opinion…..

            Well…..the concept of having to have alcohol at these events, to me, is silly.  As I mentioned…why is it important?  Will people only come if they can drink?  Anyway, on another point, more importantly, the rink is not private.  The city is responsible for what goes on the the buildings.  Who, if anyone, would be looking out for adults who “had too much”, and need to have their keys taken away from them?  Who in the building, would be making sure all the time, that people are not getting rowdy.  Can the city get sued if someone does something either in or off the premisis, that causes harm to others?  Will all building employees be held responsible if they willingly let something happen?   Nobody wants or needs lawsuits…..I’m just saying that these are totally feasible things to consider.   Recreation centers shouldn’t even have  issues like that to deal with.  

          5. Player Injuries

            Who’s going to be responsible when a child get injuried on the grounds?  Who’s responsible at the parks throught the City? Perhaps the project should be scrapped.

      1. Alcohol in a rec. center

        I agree with the above two comments.   Go to a sports bar to drink and watch hockey..not kids hockey.  It’s inappropriate.   A rec center is a rec center…not a place to drink, and (potentially) get loud and obnoxious in front of kids or not.  

        1. I disagree

          I disagree. If you’ve ever been to one of the new private indoor turf facilities (like Evanston’s Quad), you’ll see that most now serve beer and maybe other drinks. It’s very enjoyable for parents to socialize over a beer while kids warm up or play, and I’ve never seen anyone overindulge or get loud or obnoxious. It’s also a good way to bring in extra money to keep facility fees down. I say go for it. 

          1. Speaking as a Crown Patron

            Speaking as a Crown Patron who was insulted, demeaned and threatened by a pack of drunk misogynist hockey renters who snuck in a case of beer at 8am, I would be inclined to disagree with you rather strongly. 

          2. Yep…been there….seen it

            Yep…been there….seen it all..many times.  Very immature, and kind of demeans the programs with adult bad behaviors.    There is no reason at all to need or have to drink at childrens’ games.  The concept of that is beyond reason.   

  3. Sounds great

    Sounds great.  Sit up there and get drunk while your kids skate.  Then drive them home under parents’ intoxication.

    1. Frinking while “rinking”

      Spot on! Can’t adults go for 1 1/2 hours without having to drink? Drinking shouldn’t be associated with kids sports…not to mention your fact about WHO is driving home after drinking?  AND, quite obviously, a lot of people don’t stop with one beer.   Is the rink them responsible for any accident occuring after an event?  Can a rink manager , supervisor , or other employees be on the lookout for people who need ho have their car keys taken from them?    This is not even feasible.   Keep kids sports as they should be, and parents showing responsibility while attending them.  Don’t forget……this is a city building, and city programming…NOT a private club.   

  4. Alcohol at Kid-Centric Venues / Little Bean

    There is a lot of conversation around the topic of alcohol at kid venues.  I was surprised to learn that Little Beans, which is in my neighborhood and marketed as an in-ground playground and family venue, was just granted a Class W (indoor recreation/beer-wine) liquor license.  The liquor board minutes hight Dick Peach bringing up the issues of fighting that occured at certain Chuckie Cheese locations, but was greenlighted with a two-drink maximum.  One can only hope that the wine glasses are not the overly-large ones that seem to be the going trend these days.

    1. Liquor at Little Beans????

      Wow…..that’s a shocker.   Will people bring in their 24 oz. Starbucks glasses for their 2 drinks???  I don’t mean to be funny, but I’d never expect Little Beans to be serving alcohol. This is beyond ridiculous.   After a few out of control incidents at these kinds of places and events, maybe someone with a brain will see that it’s a bad idea.   A lot of people can’t drink responsibly, and shouldn’t be interacting with their kids while drinking.  I can foresee a lawsuit….and people will say I told you so. 

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