Highland Park, News

Highland Park dome to be rebuilt for pickleball, other paddle sports

(Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story featured a rendering of a proposed new domed facility, not the current facility on Skokie Valley Road.)

A nearly 15-year-old domed structure in Highland Park is getting new life as it sets out to accommodate America’s fastest-growing sport.

Highland Park’s Plan and Design Commission approved during its Tuesday, March 19 meeting a request from the park district to replace the existing dome structure at 2205 Skokie Valley Road with a new covered facility geared toward paddle sports, mainly pickleball. 

The current dome facility, first installed in 2009, has “exhausted its useful service life and needs replacement,” said Nick Baird, director of recreation for the Park District of Highland Park in a memo sent to city officials. Offerings at the facility, which operates three seasons a year, include indoor golf and additional athletics events, officials said. 

Currently, the facility is managed by the park district and the land on which it’s located is owned by the city of Highland Park. 

The park district’s now-approved plan calls for the installation of a new air-supported dome structure that will be fitted to the existing foundation and feature a total square footage of approximately 52,000 square feet, according to Karl Burhop, a senior planner for the city. 

Per Baird’s memo, the new structure will transition to a year-round operations model. The district’s hope is to “create a versatile space that caters to paddle sport enthusiasts including the addition of Pickleball and Padel racquet sport courts,” Baird said. 

“This initiative aligns with the district’s goal of enhancing recreational offerings that meet the diverse needs of the community,” he added. 

The new dome’s interior will feature 10 pickleball courts and four padel, or paddle tennis, courts, according to plans submitted by the park district. Additionally, the space will include a reception desk with a pro shop and concession sales area. 

“We’re very excited for this project,” said Brian Romes, executive director of the Park District of Highland Park. “We’re very excited to be able to bring this amenity to the community, which we will provide for the much increasing need of pickleball and padel.” 

Romes also said that the new use for the facility will allow it to serve more residents than it currently does. Operation of the space is run now through a third party, Romes said, noting that there are a lot of nonresident groups that utilize it. 

“We are meeting a need of our community that we hear about on a regular basis,” Romes said. “Indoor pickleball is in high demand.”

Park officials are estimating a completion time of late fall of this year for the project, with a grand opening slated for some time during the winter months. Proposed hours of operation are 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

Funding for the facility will largely come from a $2 million donation from Highland Park native Ron Saslow. 

Saslow is one of the owners of Chicago Slice, a team in the Major League Pickleball professional league. The team’s ownership group features several high-profile figures, including Wilmette resident and Chicago Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts, tennis star Chris Evert and model Heidi Klum, among others. 

The park board of commissioners approved the donation agreement with Saslow in December of last year. 

Plan and Design commissioners did briefly call into question the project’s landscaping plan but the board ultimately voted 3-1 to approve the request. The project will not have to appear in front of the City Council for further approval. Commissioner Denise Arnold, who did not directly state a reason for opposition but did express disapproval toward the landscaping plan, was the dissenter.

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martin carlino
Martin Carlino

Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.

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