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Wirtz to headline Crown fundraiser

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Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz will be the special guest at a celebration to benefit the new Robert Crown Community Center in Evanston on Friday, Feb. 24, at the Evanston Art Center.

Pete Giangreco, who's on the board of the Friends of the Crown Center, says the event at the art center, 1717 Central St., will kick off the public phase of fundraising for the new center.

He says early, quiet period fundraising has already generated nearly $4.7 million toward the project, including matching gifts from an anonymous donor.

Giangreco, who describes himself as a hockey dad, says interest in hockey and related sports is growing like crazy, and Evanston "needs more ice."

Plans for the new center also include four artificial turf fields to help meet demand for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse.

The existing natural grass fields at James park have big problems with drainage, Giangreco says, and adding the artificial turf fields at Crown will dramatically increase capacity in the city.

He says Wirtz and the Blackhawks are interested in the project "because they're committed to growing the game of hockey" and that, as an Northwestern University grad, Wirtz is familiar with Evanston.

The building is also planned to include a 5,000 square foot branch library.

The city and the library board have committed to issue a total of $12.5 million in bonds to cover much of the cost of the new facility — which, depending on its ultimate scope, has a total price tag estimated at between $18 million and $30 million.

The city is currently negotiating a contract with its preferred design firm for the project Woodhouse Tinucci Architects, LLC, which is scheduled for City Council approval on Jan. 23.

The Feb. 24 event will feature a VIP reception at 7 p.m., with the main event starting at 7:30 p.m.

Information on reservations for the event is expected to be issued shortly.

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