Evanston City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says plans for the future of the city’s Chandler-Newberger Recreation Center will be discussed at the City Council meeting July 11.

Bobkiewicz and several aldermen Monday night denied assertions by a speaker at the council meeting that the center’s fate has already been sealed.

Kevin O’Connor, of 1227-1/2 Isabella St., claimed the city “is cutting deals behind closed doors” and plans to give the golf course facilities that surround the recreation center to Northwestern University.

Bobkiewicz said no such decision has been reached. He noted that the golf course land is owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, while the recreation center and the American Legion hall nearby are on city-owned land.

The city-owned building housing American Legion Post 42.

The city has leased the golf course land from the MWRD and in turn subleased it to the non-profit group that runs the golf course.

Bobkiewicz has suggested that, if the city’s budget crunch forces it to cut back on recreation center operations, Chandler-Newberger might be the one chosen for closure.

He’s also suggested that, given it’s location adjacent to the Central Street station on the CTA Purple Line, the property might be among the easiest to redevelop for other uses.

Other residents speaking at Monday’s City Council meeting opposed the idea of closing the center and one resident, Andy Sohn, has launched an online petition drive seeking to keep the center open.

In the absence of a clear plan for the rec center’s future, speculation about what the site might be turned into has become a popular parlor game among some north Evanston residents.

Speculation has included that it might become the site for a new community health center or a new office building tied to Evanston Hospital.

Other ideas — or conspiracies — floated have included that it could become the site of a new basketball arena for Northwestern University that might double as a new facility for the school’s golf program.

The arena idea has gained credibility with the school’s recent mention to season ticket holders that it is in the early stages of considering a possible replacement for the Welch-Ryan Arena.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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