Council OKs seeking Crown Center fundraiser

A conceptual rendering of a possible new Robert Crown Center.

Evanston aldermen Monday voted to seek to hire a professional fundraiser to drum up financial support for a new or renovated Robert Crown Center.

The goal would be to have the fundraiser find donors to provide a minimum of $5 million toward redevelopment of Crown's ice rink and other facilities -- and possibly as much as $18 million.

Combined with planned debt financing of $12.5 million from the city, city staff estimates the smaller amount would pay for renovation and expansion of the existing building, while the higher total could fund a new center at the west end of the Crown park property.

Drawings developed by John Ronan, an architect hired by the city, envision a new building with roughly 113,000 square feet of space including an elevated running track, two full-size ice rinks, a gym, a branch library and a central courtyard with skylights.

A view of one of the ice rinks from the elevated running track.

At the lower price, a renovated Crown Center would include about 75,000 square feet of space and have the existing configuration of one large and one small ice rink and a gym. But it would gain a 5,000 square foot branch library as well as new multipurpose rooms and a skylit atrium area -- pushing the structure's overall footprint closer to Main Street.

A rendering of a renovated Crown Center.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, raised concerns about how the fundraiser would be compensated and said that a previous fundraiser, hired to raise money for a downtown performing arts theater, "I don't think raised even 25-cents."

But City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said whatever compensation scheme the aldermen preferred -- either a flat fee or a percentage of funds raised -- could be included in the request for proposals issued to seek the fundraising firm.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said a renovation project, rather than building new on a different part of the park, "would be a huge setback" for the city's ice recreation programs because it would take the main ice rink out of service for a season.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said that as someone who'd been a hockey parent for many years she believes Crown is an essential part of the community, but that she also believes the city can't afford to fund the full cost of the new facility itself.

Related story

City to seek donors for new ice rink (2/22/15)