Park district considers improvements at Leavitt Park, racquet club

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Park district considers improvements at Leavitt Park, racquet club

February 22, 2021 - 21:42

The Homewood-Flossmoor Park District is considering undertaking two major studies for improvements at Leavitt Park in Flossmoor and the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club.

Park commissioners discussed both projects, and several others, during an annual review of goals for the coming year and beyond at a Feb. 2 meeting.

While Leavitt Park in Flossmoor offers play equipment and ball fields, H-F Park District Commissioners are considering whether to create a space that will attract students from nearby Parker Junior High. (Provided photo)

While Leavitt Park in Flossmoor offers play equipment and ball fields, H-F Park District Commissioners are considering whether to create a space that will interest and attract older children from nearby Parker Junior High. (Provided photo)

Commissioners discussed whether Leavitt Park in Flossmoor needs a revamp. It is a large area, site of the former Leavitt School. It sometimes floods. It has an area with play equipment, a gazebo, ball fields and public sculptures, but otherwise it’s open space. It’s also not attracting students from Park Junior High after school hours. The students need somewhere to go, said Commissioner Brent Bachus.

Parks Executive Director Debbie Kopas wondered if the space should be redesigned. 

“What if we brainstormed with the community and staff on what that park could be? What if we redesigned that park from north, south, east and west? What would it look like from a design perspective?” Kopas wondered. “I believe we’d be looking at a lot of money, but why not have a dream, right?” 

She acknowledged it would take fundraising and probably a partnership with the village, schools and Flossmoor organizations. 

“It’s kind of a higher level project. Should we commit any money to it? Hire a designer to start the process of what it could be?”

Bachus said there are stakeholders that would have a vested interest in “a broad re-think of how that park is laid out.” He said District 161 gets complaints about what the junior high students do after school hours. Bachus said they go to the park and disrupt the young moms with kids. And, the library has some issues with the teens there.

“Taking a solid look at that park makes a whole lot of sense,” he said. “I do think this certainly falls into the category (of a) dream, but investigating the art of the possible and maybe having some conversations with other entities…it could be that there’s plenty of hands raised that would be interested in doing some type of contribution for this.”

Commissioners said they’d consider putting money into the next budget for design work. 

The second project under discussion is a redesign of the racquet club. The facility at 2920 W. 183rd St. in Homewood, started as a tennis club. Through additions, it gained a swimming pool and a fitness area with various equipment. But the facility is aging and there are spaces that could be redesigned for other park or community uses.

Staff has been looking at a few options, but every time they come up with an idea, they realize there are two or three other things that would also need to be changed, Kopas said. If the space is converted for other uses, technology would need to be added to restrict access to certain areas that require a membership, as is the current policy for using the racquet club.

“We have ideas on what we can do, hosting programs that haven’t been there in the past, but if we really want to go all in on this, I think it’s a big project with a big price tag probably in the millions and you would want to have someone come in and professionally design what this building could be,” Kopas told commissioners.

The park district is already trying to tackle the needed improvements at the H-F Ice Arena. Those have a price tag of between $4 million and $5 million. The most major of the improvements is a new system for making ice at the rink, and the building also needs a new roof. 

But commissioners say it is hard to say they should or shouldn’t consider changes to the racquet club without knowing the cost. 

“We know what we want to do at the ice arena,” Commissioner Steve Johnson said. “We have a really broad idea of what we want at the racquet club but no idea of the cost. I would like to get that to the same level as the ice arena so I could understand what that big dream could be and then it’s the challenge of finding the money.”

Commissioners Brent Bachus and Debbie Dennison liked the idea of making the facility more of a community center, but Commissioner Linda Ojode said she would want a study done on what the community wants. She referenced the  village of Matteson's community center, which cost more than the initial budget. She asked that the board judge any changes on their sustainability.

Johnson said, the board is “back to a (racquet club) master plan of what it is, and then figure out the cost, and then figure out how to pay for it.”

The board agreed the proposal called for a professional to come in and assess the space and offer ideas.