Cars in the Crown Center parking lot.

Evanston’s Parks and Recreation Board voted unanimously Thursday night to oppose charging non-residents to park at recreation centers.

Evanston already charges non-residents $3 an hour to park at Lake Michigan beaches, and Ald. Devon Reid (8th) had floated the idea of expanding the program to recreation centers as a way to raise additional revenue without putting the fee burden on residents.

But board member John Bryan said Evanston “already has a bad name for parking,” and adding fees at rec centers would just keep non-residents, who might otherwise shop and go to Evanston restaurants, away from town.

Parks & Recreation Board meeting Thursday night at Lovelace Park.

Board chair Robert Bush said “you might as well put in toll booths on Ridge, Dempster and Main” if you wanted to charge non-residents to park at places like Robert Crown Center.

Many non-residents already are paying fees to participate in events at the rec centers.

The idea of a parking fee first surfaced because of parking shortages at Crown during high-attendance events, such as hockey tournaments.

With not enough spots at the Center, the hope was that the parking lot would end up with mostly Evanstonians if non-residents had to pay.

But Bush said an out-of-town parking fee at a place like Crown could actually backfire.

“Everyone knows there’s a parking problem at Robert Crown,” he said. A fee woud actually “force more people back into the neighborhoods.”

Jeff Totsch, a new board member in his first meeting, said charging out of town fees would be like “forcing grandma to pay” to watch her grandchild compete.

City Council has final say on whether to add the non-resident parking fees.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Join the Conversation


  1. Agreed that charging non-residents for parking at the rec center is a HORRIBLE idea. It does nothing to actually solve the parking problem. If they’re looking to raise additional revenues from non-residents, they should look at the rates they charge residents/non-residents for programming at Robert Crown. I’m not sure what that spread is now, but could be examined further as to what that sweet spot might be. At least that is something that ALL suburban park districts do (charge non-residents more for park district-run activities). I’m not sure how that works for things like hockey tournaments though — I assume the league/org pays the city a rental fee. In tandem with that, they should examine if there is a possibility to expand the parking lot somehow. (You’d think they’d have done parking studies ahead of construction.)

    If anything, Evanston should be looking for ways to reduce parking fees. I agree with John Bryan that Evanston “already has a bad name for parking.” We likely lose out on RESIDENTS getting services in Evanston because of parking policies. I frankly sometimes avoid downtown Evanston and drive 5-10 minutes further to get easy/free/ample parking if I need something at like a CVS/Walgreens type place. More dramatically, I know MANY senior residents avoid Evanston Hospital/medical services because of parking annoyance and go to Skokie instead. People don’t want to deal with the parking boxes/structures/hassle/payments and, yes, something as little as $20/day could change someone’s decision-making for a $5k medical procedure as crazy as that sounds. Or where they choose to have a dentist, etc.

    At least the Parks and Rec board has shown some logic here. Hopefully the City Council will follow suit.

  2. I would argue with the whole idea that there is a parking “problem” at Crown.

    I live very close and go to Robert Crown once or twice a week and *maybe* once a month you see cars parked on Main St. or Lee St. because the lot is close to capacity.

    On Lee St. between Main and Florence there are only five homes–all of which have garages, so having folks park on Lee once a month for a couple of hours is not inconveniencing any residents.

    There are residents on the south side of Main, but EVERY SINGLE HOME between Main and Florence has a garage with alley or driveway access.

    On both Lee and Main St about 99% of the time there are no cars parked at all, so the Crown overflow is not likely displacing any residents. Occasionally, you will see people parking for Crown on Dewey, south of Main, but, again, there are no houses in the half-block closest to Crown.

    What is really needed–and which could alleviate the parking situation–is safer pedestrian and bike access to the site. The Dodge and Main intersection is one of the more unsafe in the city and has minimal pedestrian safety features. Dewey, south of Main has no sidewalks and there is no pedestrian crossing there.

    This makes it very unsafe and if I am going there with my young kids I am often reluctant to walk because of the poor planning by the city. We could bike, but the Dodge bike lanes are poorly designed and neglected by the city.

    Instead we drive which contributes to parking demand at Crown.

    1. I completely agree with this comment. The access to the center is very poor for pedestrians. Main and dodge is a terrible intersection.

  3. What about saying no to increasing the admission to the Dempster Street beach. Now charging per paddleboard, $1100 for a Skevanston resident and $ 840 for a family of 4 in Evanston to exercise on the water. Who approved this move because its pricing families out of a public space.

  4. How about people wake up and vote in alders and Mayor that are competent? Evanston is prolific at overcommitting to their social ideals and doesn’t spend money wisely. Stop looking in the couch cushions for spare change i.e. trying raise revenue through charging for parking at Robert Crown.

  5. Evanston tax rates are already high: so why are we paying car owners to come store their vehicles in the Robert Crown lot? “Free parking” anywhere is a terrible policy. It turns the taxpaying residents of a community into landlords who are denied any rent on property whose upkeep they are compelled to support.

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