Architect to help review sites, plan Elmhurst sports facility

Elmhurst Park District has selected an architect to help with the early stages of planning for one of the cornerstone projects of its Vision 2020 campaign, an indoor sports facility.

The facility could include things like basketball and volleyball courts, turf soccer fields and ice hockey rinks, once the park district finds a suitable site, estimates construction costs, gathers more public input and secures a funding source, Executive Director James Rogers said.

Helping with the first steps of this process will be Elmhurst-based architecture firm Dewberry, which the park board chose Monday to evaluate potential sites and develop initial concepts for a roughly 100,000-square-foot building.

Rogers said the district's goal is to have a feasible site identified by the middle of next year, as the district also works simultaneously to evaluate other projects identified as community desires through the Vision 2020 process, including a new senior center, a dog park, an expansion of Wagner Community Center, acquisition of more open space and improved maintenance of parks and amenities.

Work at this point, he said, is aiming to "understand what does Vision 2020 look like in total," before potentially seeking partnerships, sponsorships, naming rights or a tax increase through a referendum question to fund the projects.

A large indoor sports facility alone would require some expansion of the budget.

"The district's current funding levels are not sufficient to accommodate the construction and operation of a facility of this size," Rogers said.

Dewberry's first project will be to conduct architectural analysis of properties the district is considering as the future home of an indoor sports center, reviewing things like how large of a building and how many parking spaces could fit on each site to be considered within the relatively landlocked and built-out community.

"They're helping us evaluate sites that we find," Rogers said. "The biggest challenge that we face is finding appropriate sites."

Where the district has an advantage, park board President Vince Spaeth said, is in the feedback it already has received from residents, who seem to be indicating a willingness to pay for more and better parks and facilities.

"We don't want to push out anything. We want the residents to pull from the park district and say, 'Here's what we want,'" Spaeth said. "We want to build what our customers want, what gives them fulfillment in life."

In a Vision 2020 survey of 328 residents, 61 percent of respondents listed indoor fitness as a need and 47 percent listed a desire for an indoor walking and running track.

Spaeth said Dewberry's architectural work will help officials identify where they can "get the most bang for our buck" and what features best would fit together in an indoor sports center.

"We've got to be open," he said, "to what the new needs and trends are."

Reporting by Marie Wilson, The Daily Herald