Officials break ground on overhaul of Watts and hope project is complete by end of year
Park district leaders and supporters gathered Tuesday, April 12, at Watts Recreational Center to celebrate the beginning of renovations for the Glencoe Park District facility.
The $6 million project includes upgrades to the indoor ice-support facility, the addition of a multipurpose room, new restrooms and storage areas, and a reworking of “inaccessible” space to support more programming. Improvements also include an elevator to meet ADA standards.
A $2.5-million grant from the state is subsidizing the work, which will also utilize park district reserves and borrowing ($2 million in bond sales executed in 2020), according to park officials.
Legislators U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider, State Sen. Julie Morrison and State Rep. Jonathon Carroll were on hand April 11 to help the park district break ground. Park Board President Lisa Brooks said the trio was vital in acquiring the grant from the Park and Recreational Facilities Construction grant.
The overhaul of Watts is a long time coming for the Glencoe Park District, as Brooks said the building has underperformed for years and is in “the last phase of its useful life.”
“There is a need for more programming to meet the demand,” she said. “We don’t have the supply.”
Watts serves many functions, including as an after-school-care facility. The building’s ability to do that has waned in recent years, Brooks said, and the Takiff Center and local schools have had to pick up the slack.
The renovations reportedly will free up 2,300 square feet in additional space — including on the currently unusable second level — to provide local children with “a place they really want to go to” for after-school programming. Brooks said the district hopes the additional space will cater to more STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) and performing-arts activities.
Officials hope the upgraded facility is ready for users by the end of the year.
Watts Recreation Center was built in 1959 as the Glencoe Park District’s lone recreation space. In 1972, a refrigerated outdoor ice rink was installed and became the center’s primary attraction.
The center now has two outdoor rinks that are are supported by indoor services, such as skate rental and storage. With the improvements, the indoor space will be renovated, while the rinks are set to get new dasher boards around their perimeters.
The park district has also considered additional renovations that did not make it into the funded project. It continues to seek donors to help fund other upgrades, such as a player box one of the ice rinks, an outdoor fireplace and seating area between the rinks, and a gathering plaza for both educational programming and guest comfort. For more information on how to contribute, call (847) 835-3030 or email email@example.com.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319