Community Recreation Center FAQ

Why should Oak Park build a Community Recreation Center?

 Based on national standards, a community with a population the size of Oak Park should have between 260 and 520 acres of green space to accommodate residents’ needs for programs serving people of all ages and abilities, sports, and passive recreation, such as walking and playing in parks. The Park District of Oak Park has only 83 acres of green space all of which are landlocked. There are no undeveloped areas available for additional park space to meet our community’s needs. In addition to limited park space, Oak Park lacks adequate communal space for organized meetings and activities as well as informal gathering spaces to build resident connections within our community. With the expected growth in the Village population, the Park District is working on plans to meet the current and future recreational needs of all residents. A Community Recreation Center will help to ensure that we are reaching our broad audience of residents.


Who does the Park District of Oak Park currently serve?

 Oak Park has a population of approximately 52,000 with an expected growth of 3,000 more residents over the next three years. It is the Park District’s goal and mission to serve all residents regardless of age, income, race, sexual orientation, physical ability, or identity.


Currently, the Park District serves the following percentage of our residents through programs:


51% of the Infants-Pre-K (age 0-5)

19% of the Adults (age 20-64)

92% of the Youth (age 6-12)

42% of Active Adults (age 50-64)

46% of the Teens (age 13-19

9% of Seniors (age 65 and older)


 What is the Park District of Oak Park’s annual budget?

The Park District’s annual operating budget is approximately $20 million, which is derived from both taxes (49.5%) and earned revenue (51.5%). The District’s annual budget for capital improvements is approximately $2 million.


Who will the Community Recreation Center serve?

 All residents of Oak Park will have free access to the walking track. Free open gym will be available immediately after school to students in grades 6-12 who are Oak Park residents. The addition of the Community Recreation Center will address three important Park District facility needs identified by our community: gymnasiums, indoor walking/running track, and access to a fitness center. Seniors will benefit from the indoor track to provide safe walking conditions regardless of the weather. Pickleball and other sports activities will be available during daytime hours for our active adults. These facility and programming additions help the Park District provide year-round opportunities for segments of our population that are currently not being served or are underserved.


How much will the Community Recreation Center cost?

 The funding of the facility will be divided into two phases. Phase One (cost $18.5 million) will consist of a gymnasium, indoor walking track and fitness center, as well as parking for vehicles and bicycles. Phase Two (cost $5-10 million) will add an Aquatics Center with indoor swimming pools for lap swim, leisure swim, and warm water therapy.


Why is there not a pool in Phase One?

 The Park District plans to meet most needs of Oak Park residents in Phase One. A pool could be built in Phase One if a donor(s) provides the $5M in additional capital funds necessary for its construction.


How will the cost of building the Community Recreation Center be funded?

 The Parks Foundation is leading the fundraising campaign for this facility. Once the community interest was established in the 2016 Feasibility Study, the Park District planned for a contribution of $5 million of its Capital Funds toward this project. The remaining funds will be secured through partnerships such as with the Oak Park Mental Health Board ($1 million) and through grants and gifts from foundations, corporations, and individuals who believe in the Park District’s mission and are committed to serving the needs of all of our residents, especially those that are not currently being served.


When will the Community Recreation Center be built?

 The Park District will decide on a building schedule based on the success of the capital campaign. The timeline is dependent on the Parks Foundation’s fundraising efforts. If fundraising goals are met, we expect to break ground in spring 2021. The facility opening date is estimated to occur 14-18 months after the start of construction.


Will the building of a Community Recreation Center increase property taxes?

 No, the Center’s construction and operations will not increase property taxes. Revenues generated within the facility will cover annual operating costs. Construction will be heavily supported by private, philanthropic contributions and possible grant dollars.


Will the new Center create unfair competition for the private health clubs in Oak Park?

 The population of Oak Park is well suited and of sufficient density to support both public and private health and recreation facilities. Many Chicago metro area communities have successfully supported private health clubs, a YMCA, and a park district recreation center. These communities include Elmhurst, Downers Grove, Lombard, Des Plaines, and LaGrange. The new Community Recreation Center’s fitness classes and center will offer residents easy access to affordable exercise options. The Park District is deeply committed to helping ensure that all residents have access to health and wellness facilities that are important to a healthy lifestyle and the wellbeing of our community.


After it is built, will the Community Recreation Center be economically sustainable?

 Yes, the CRC is projected to be financially self-sufficient. The Park District has prepared several financial assessments looking at the types of programs and facilities planned in the construction of the Community Recreation Center. The main sources of revenue will be from the fitness center memberships and some fee-based programs. The expenditures are in line with the cost of operations and the annual budget is planned to break-even. The Center will be managed similarly to the model used at Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex and the Gymnastics and Recreation Center, both of which operate with annual net positive income.


How will the Park District ensure that under-represented and under-resourced families are using the Community Recreation Center?

 The Park District will continue community outreach and marketing efforts with School Districts 97 and 200 social workers as well as the Oak Park Township and Public Library to provide continual information about programs and services offered to the community by the Park District, including the District’s Scholarship Program. With a free walking/running track and free open gym and related space, under-resourced Oak Park families can use the Center without financial limitation. The Park District will intentionally seek the input from Black and brown people at all points of planning this project.


How will the Community Recreation Center meet the needs of the Oak Park Community?

 Providing gymnasiums and basketball courts for after school use in addition to a year-round walking and running track and fitness center will expand access to affordable and new recreational and fitness opportunities. The Park District does not own a gymnasium to support the myriad of sports programs currently offered. The Park District must depend on D97 and D200 schools for gym space and these spaces are not available during the critical after school hours or weekend evenings. Walking paths are one of the most desired amenities requested by residents, yet currently, there is not a facility in Oak Park that provides free, year-round access to a walking track. The Community Recreation Center will make a significant impact in our community today and for the benefit of future generations.


What new users will the Community Recreation Center attract?

 The Park District strives to serve all residents and guests and we recognize some populations are not engaging in the programs currently offered. This facility is expected to expand our engagement with African-American youth, seniors, and active adults, young adults, and teens.

These are all populations with whom the Park District continues to improve its reach. The Park District strives to serve all residents and guests, and we recognize some populations are not engaging in the programs currently offered. We’ve administered and collected broad community feedback identifying those gaps. The Community Recreation Center will address many of those gaps through programming and facilities. The Community Recreation Center will be designed to meet the needs of both organic community-building as well as formal meeting space. The Center will also be a place for families to gather for group activities, whether together or in different spaces.


Why a capital campaign?

 The Park District Board of Commissioners agreed that this approach allows the Park District to meet the desired facility needs of Oak Park residents without raising property taxes. It also provides opportunities for businesses, foundations, and individuals to invest directly in healthy, recreational pursuits of residents, as well as the community-building needs of our residents. Ultimately, the Community Recreation Center will result in a stronger, more connected community.


Why will the Community Recreation Center cost $18.5 million?

 The project cost, including soft costs, is estimated at $18.5 million for a 45,000 square foot Community Recreation Center. This cost does not include the land, which was generously donated by the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation. Community Recreation Center amenities are planned to include:


Walking Track

Inclusive Restrooms


Fitness Center

Fitness Room

Community Rooms

Child Watch

Multi-Purpose Room

Mental Health Offices

Lobby/Gathering Space

Locker Room


How will the Capital Campaign be managed?

 The Parks Foundation of Oak Park is managing the Capital Campaign for the Community Recreation Center. The Parks Foundation Board created a Community Recreation Center Development Team, comprised of volunteers, to focus on this fundraising effort. The Parks Foundation is a 501c3, which allows donors to make their contribution tax-deductible.


Are there naming opportunities for the Community Recreation Center?

 Yes, naming rights are available for the facility, gymnasium, walking track, fitness center, multi-purpose room, and lobby, as well as the pool facility in Phase Two. These opportunities are available to foundations, corporations, and individual donors. In offering naming rights, the Parks Foundation hopes to raise all the capital funds necessary to construct this facility to support youth, families, and seniors in our community.


Where will the Community Recreation Center be located?

 The Community Recreation Center will be located on the south side of Madison Street between Harvey Avenue and Highland Avenue, which is currently a vacant lot. The centralized location will serve both of our middle schools and high school, the furthest of which is less than 1.1 miles from the facility. Additionally, the Community Recreation Center will be located near a densely populated area of Oak Park with a high concentration of residents who live in apartments and condos.


How much tax revenue is being lost by building a public Center on this property?

 The property on which the Center will be built is currently vacant and has been for many years. Owned by a nonprofit foundation, the property was not taxable, but when it was, property taxes paid were approximately $60,000. Today the land is valued at approximately $2 million and is being generously donated to the Parks Foundation by a family foundation that is committed to the health and wellbeing of all Oak Park residents, particularly youth and underserved families.

When built, the Center, located in the Madison Street business district, will become an important community hub of activity for people of all ages. The infusion of people using the Center will benefit the wide array of retail and service businesses located along the corridor.


What will be the programming be in the CRC?

 The CRC will provide programming for many different demographics in Oak Park. The indoor walking track will be a free amenity open to all ages. The fitness center will be open to teens adults and seniors and will provide physical activity for all abilities. A child watch room will be available during specific hours so residents with young children have a place for their children to be supervised while they utilize the facility. The program rooms will host dance and fitness classes for various ages. An E-Sports room will expand the concept of recreation to include digital options. The gymnasium will host middle school and high school residents after school and will be utilized for other activities throughout the day including pickleball, volleyball, basketball, and a variety of other sporting activities. The all-purpose rooms will hold general interest classes as well as community meeting space. The mental health board has plans to have intake offices located in the facility allowing residents to access assistance in a comfortable setting eliminating some of the stigmas for seeking help.

The facility will offer a wide array of programming and drop-in possibilities. However, residents can count on an overriding consistent theme: the Center will be a place for ALL Oak Parkers to Belong and to access programming and amenities that will serve their health, fitness, and social needs.


Will other Park District facilities close when the Community Recreation Center is opened?

 No, with limited park and recreation space for Oak Park’s population, the Park District will continue to utilize all existing facilities for a wide variety of programs to serve residents. In fact, throughout most days between the hours of 9 am and 9 pm, the occupancy of our facilities are at or near full capacity.


How much will it cost to belong to the Community Recreation Center?

 Pricing has not yet been established; however, the open gym/space for 6th-12th graders M-F during the school year will be free for all Oak Park residents. Additionally, the walking track will be open and free to all Oak Park residents when the facility is open to the public. A fee will be charged for the fitness center, fitness programs, and other Park District programs so the facility can function in an economically sustainable manner. The Park District offers scholarships for residents, which will be available for fitness memberships and child watch as well.



Why did the Park District not work with D200 on a shared facility?

 Over the past decade, both entities have engaged in several study sessions to explore the concept of sharing a facility. In 2010, the possibility of sharing the Ridgeland Common building was extensively investigated but deemed unsustainable from a programming or cost perspective. Recently, the Park District and D200 explored how a single new facility could be shared to meet all needs of both taxing bodies. Again, it was determined that the high school’s needs to accommodate students and the Park District’s programming needs could not be solved with a single facility. That said, the two entities continue to share facilities. Oak Park & River Forest High School “OPRFHS” uses Park District of Oak Park “PDOP” spaces such as Ridgeland Common fields and ice rink, Lindberg tennis courts and baseball fields, and various other fields for their PE classes as well as sports teams. PDOP utilizes OPRFHS to host the annual Frank Lloyd Wright Races and the pool and gymnasiums for classes and leagues. The park district and OPRFHS will continue to collaborate to best meet the needs of Oak Park residents without duplication and unnecessary costs.


Why can’t the Park District just use D97 gymnasium facilities?

 The two entities have written agreements and work together to share gym facilities throughout the school year and the summer. However, the elementary school gyms are used after school for Hephzibah, school-based afterschool programs, PTO programs as well as Park District programming whenever possible. The two middle school gyms are used by their team sports throughout the year. The building of a Park District facility with gymnasium space, will not duplicate services or result in unnecessary space. The addition of gymnasium space will expand access and programming during daytime, after-school, weekends, and evenings.

After-school time from 3-6 pm is a critical time for youth, especially 6th – 12th graders. An accessible and affordable Community Recreation Center will provide free space for youth to engage in positive recreational behaviors between the time school is dismissed and when parents or guardians arrive home from work. Also, research evidence demonstrates that youth engagement in after-school programming is associated with higher levels of student attendance and academic performance. The Park District welcomes the opportunity to expand no-cost after school options for Oak Park youth.


Will the community be able to use the spaces in the Community Recreation Center for meetings?

 Yes, the Community Recreation Center will have two multipurpose rooms that can be used for a variety of programs and functions, including community meetings.


Regarding the building site of the Community Recreation Center: Will the current overnight parking be relocated?

 All leases of parking spaces will receive ample notice (6 – 12 months) of the Center’s construction start date giving them time to identify alternative parking accommodations. The property, valued at $2 million, is being generously donated to the Parks Foundation for the specific purpose of building a Community Recreation Center to address unmet community needs. The Park District will work with the Village to identify possible parking options.


Do the Park District and other government entities share vehicles?

 The Park District shares two buses with the Township for transportation of seniors throughout the community and this arrangement will continue after the CRC is built. The Park District and Village also share lift trucks, chippers, and other heavy machinery to reduce duplication of assets.

Other examples of collaboration include:

  • PDOP provided Village of Oak Park space for community mulch and compost at Rehm Park
  • Collaboration on community engagement with Township and Library joining PDOP in the parks
  • Shared print materials in VOP FYI between PDOP/Library and D97/D200
  • PDOP uses VOP Fleet for vehicle servicing
  • All Oak Park government entities use VOP gas purchasing to reduce cost
  • PDOP and D200 share: Ridgeland Common and OPRFHS fields, Lindberg tennis courts and baseball fields, various locations for cross country, ice rink, gymnasiums, indoor pool, and hosting the Frank Lloyd Wright Races
  • PDOP and D97 collaborate to share field care and maintenance responsibilities


What strategies will we use to attract and engage the folks who could benefit the most from this facility?

 The Park District will continue our outreach efforts through D97 and the Oak Park Library to provide information to segments of our community who may not currently use our facilities. The District strongly believes that the basketball courts and the indoor walking track will attract community members who may not have participated in paid Park District programming in the past. Additionally, the Park District just adopted a Social Equity Policy and staff are working on a variety of outreach strategies to reach deeper into our community to serve those who have not been served in the past through our programs/services.


If the Mental Health Board moves into the CRC does that mean they will be reducing office space elsewhere?

 Yes, the Community Mental Health Board will relocate its offices inside the Community Recreation Center, which will be open seven days a week with evening hour access.


Why does the Park District need MORE facilities?

 The Park District is not seeking to duplicate any existing facilities. The Park District portfolio of assets does not include gymnasium space, a fitness center, an indoor walking track nor an indoor pool. The proposed amenities have consistently been requested by Oak Park residents in the community surveys conducted in 2010, 2014, and 2019. The Community Recreation Center will allow the Park District to be more responsive to the needs and interests of current Oak Park residents while also attracting new residents.


How will the Park District pay for its new properties and facilities?

 In 2004, a facility inventory and assessment were completed by Oak Park community members. As a result, concerns about a lack of investment and deferred maintenance prompted the Park Board to seek a referendum in 2005. The community voted to pass the referendum and consequently, 50% of the 25 cent tax increase was committed to being set aside for facility improvements. To this day, this dedicated fund is used to renovate parks and facilities so they are maintained safely and attractively.

The Park District has also been able to leverage these funds along with matching dollars to apply for state grants from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Park District of Oak Park has received over $5M in grants for park renovations since 2006.

The Park District has increased its earned revenue from programs and passes from 29% in 2012 to 51% in 2019. This increase in earned revenue has allowed the District to cover the annual payments for the bonds issued in 2012, 2013, and 2014 for the Gymnastics Center and Ridgeland Commons without using tax dollars. The bonds are abated every year, meaning the residents of Oak Park are not being taxed for these improvements.

Lastly, the Park Board also allocates $100,000 annually for turf field replacements. Besides, D97 will pay 50% for Irving, Brooks, and Julian turfs, so that funds are available when the useful life of these fields is reached. The Board also allocates $200,000 annually for property acquisition to ensure funds are available if a property that would benefit recreational opportunities in Oak Park becomes available.


Once the CRC is built, how will the Park District ensure that the new facilities engage residents who can benefit the most? 

The Park District of Oak Park constantly strives to serve the entire community. PDOP will continue to work with our many partners including The Collaboration for Early Childhood, Success of All Youth, Oak Park Public Library, the school districts, the Township, and many more to inform not-yet-engaged residents about this great asset.

The Park District knows that our outdoor basketball courts are heavily used by African-American youth. Through our conversations with these youth and their parents/guardians, the Park District of Oak Park is very confident that youth will utilize the basketball courts and take advantage of the year-round play opportunities.

Additionally, the Park District is collaborating with the Community Mental Health Board to provide more accessible resources and services. It is important to note that during the Park District’s feasibility study, it was the students that asked for the mental health services to be offered at the Community Recreation Center so youth can conveniently and discreetly access help without stigma.


What acoustic considerations will be taken to ensure interiors are comfortable for occupants, the broad program with its tight adjacencies are kept separate, and maintaining the ambient noise levels at surrounding residences?

 Community and Recreation Centers can be a challenging building type to maintain acoustic comfort for the wide variety of programming that will take place. Throughout our design process, we will be analyzing airborne and structure-borne acoustic concerns and working to mitigate them within the allowable project budget. The acoustic impact on our neighbors to the south will also be considered as we locate and design the building mechanical systems and screening devices.


Are there early estimates of projected annual operating costs once the facility is up and running? How are current COVID concerns impacting planning, if at all, regarding projecting fee-for-service revenue?

At this time, we have an approximate annual operating cost of $676,000 for this facility. We project facility revenues over $700,000 annually that will cover these operating costs. Regarding COVID concerns, we have an assured air quality circulation system planned for installation. Just like all of our other facilities, we will maintain a clean and healthy environment.


Has any study been done to assure this is an adequate number of locker room changing facilities that could accommodate the anticipated users without long waiting times to use a station?

The number of the toilet, shower, and dressing rooms for the project is based on a combination of code required plumbing fixtures and our design team’s deep expertise in designing community recreation facilities.  We anticipate that in addition to the 7 changing rooms indicated, that the 4 shower rooms will also be used by patrons for changing.  These rooms exceed the requirements of the Illinois Plumbing Code based on the project building occupancy calculations.  In addition to exceeding those requirements, the project will also provide secure cubbies and coat hooks throughout to provide patrons who arrive dressed to participate in a space to store items and avoid unnecessary congestion in the locker rooms.


Are pictures available of what the outside of the building will look like? Including what it will look like from Highland Street to the south?

 Please visit to see a preview of the CRC design. The presentation deck from the August 12 CRC Open House, found under project updates on the website, features several views of the design concept.


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