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Ice rink developer search approved

Evanston aldermen Monday voted to invite potential developers apply for the job of building and operating a new recreation center in Crown Park.

The aldermen also chose Alderman Don Wilson, whose 4th Ward includes the park, and Aldermen Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, and Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, whose wards adjoin the park, as members of a committee to oversee the project.

Evanston aldermen Monday voted to invite potential developers apply for the job of building and operating a new recreation center in Crown Park.

The aldermen also chose Alderman Don Wilson, whose 4th Ward includes the park, and Aldermen Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, and Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, whose wards adjoin the park, as members of a committee to oversee the project.

As previously reported, the plan calls for persuading a private developer to pay to build and operate the recreation center under a lease from the city that would entitle the developer to a share of revenues from the center’s operation.

The public-private partnership would be designed to save the city the burden of expending its capital for what rec center advocates say is a sorely needed new facility at a time when the city is trying to reduce its capital expenditures.

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 approved issuing 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. 

The proposed new recreation center would be significantly larger than the existing 61,000 square foot center.t 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 parks chief Doug Gaynor conceded during discussion of the plan that he’s not aware of any similar ice rink facility in the country built under the public-private partnership model envisioned by the city.

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