Why Does The City Need An Indoor Sports Facility?

Because it makes a whole lot of sense.

One of the topics at the September 19th City Council Meeting was the West Oakton Development Committee Report, addressing recommendations about what to do with the vacant, city-owned property formerly known as The Recycling Center at 2310 Oakton Street.

The City Council minutes report the empty building “is a 13,000 square foot steel frame structure that formally operated as the Evanston Recycling Center. The Center closed in 2010 when operations were contracted to a third party.”

The committee’s findings and recommendations can be found, beginning on page 63, in the 9/19/11 City Council Meeting Minutes, concluding with City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz’s recommendation (p. 91) to pursue commercial opportunities for the unoccupied space.

During the meeting, city aldermen voted 6-2 in favor of moving ahead with a proposed indoor sports facility, proposed by Evanston AYSO and EBSA. The groups believe they can coordinate efforts to rebuild and run the facility at zero cost to the City.

As I write this, almost 300 people have "liked" the idea on Facebook, and 1,352 have signed a petition in favor. Well, 1,351 signed it (I accidentally signed it twice).

Here’s the thing. As of two weeks ago, I would have loved nothing more than to have a Trader Joe’s in that spot; I’m confident that a great many other Evanstonians would also like to see that happen. However, the elusive Trader Joe’s has not and, I dare say, will not, come to Evanston for a variety of reasons/rumors (Evanston's considered too tough to deal with…we have too many grocery stores already…we aren’t the “Trader Joe’s demographic”…).


Be that way, Trader Joe’s, because you know what? My parents have told me about an amazing place they’ve just discovered called Mariano’s Fresh Market, and, I hate to tell you this Mr. Trader Joe, but my father claims it’s even better than you.

There, I said it.

More importantly, we’ve got so many options for groceries in Evanston right now that it just makes sense to bring something to the vacant space that we a) don’t have and b) desperately need.

If the City of Evanston is serious about its commitment to battling childhood obesity, it will see how vital an indoor sports facility is. Sure, we have Robert Crown, but it’s falling apart right now and the space is limited. Families across Evanston travel out of the city to bring their kids to other indoor facilities for practices. Keep in mind that, when busy parents cart their kids out of town for their sporting activities, it’s very likely they’ll kill time in those towns running quick errands such as, oh, I don’t know…grocery shopping, home repair shopping, pet supply shopping. They might even grab a quick bite to eat.  These are income streams we’re kissing goodbye every time a carpool leaves for the XYZ indoor sports facility in XYZ-ville.  Why not keep that stream (and add to it) by renovating an existing space like the former Recycling Center?

To me, it just makes sense.

And…there's a 4.3 acre lot for sale a few doors down, next to the Animal Shelter.  Might be a perfect spot for Mariano's Fresh Market...

Candace Hill September 21, 2011 at 01:16 PM
You want a darling little market? Morse Fresh Market one block west of the Morse El stop, with a parking lot. Items on the shelves that you never see in Evanston, but lust after when you find them in Skokie. A full butcher, nice produce, and unusual baked goods. It's my new favorite bike ride.
mij September 21, 2011 at 06:43 PM
What about all the parks that are vacan most of the time. This will ab a waste of taxpayer dollars ( I know you claim they say no taxpayer dollars will be used) You think the user fees will cover costs? they don't at the other facilities that are available.
mij September 21, 2011 at 07:21 PM
Forgot to mention a better spot of Trader Joes or a Mariano’s Fresh Market might be th old Osco?CVS store at Asbury and Oakton. Lots of Parking. WHy not sports facility their?
victoria smith September 22, 2011 at 11:55 AM
I hope that they do put in a sports facility, it is long over due! If it actually happens it could really generate allot of revenue for Evanston. We have so many baseball teams in Evanston that have to go to other suburbs to use their facilities. I hope that they find a place that is big enough to accomodate what is really essential in having one that is successful. Yes MIJ, with what the costs are for private coaching lessons, renting of an indoor field etc they shouldn't have any problem at all covering costs and, it will also generate more jobs.
mij September 22, 2011 at 12:34 PM
Everyday we hear and read that this project or that project will create jobs (popular comment). THEN WHY ARE THEIR 20 MILLON PEOPLE OUT OF WORK? do tell raise money huh sure. Like the resturants and theasters on Howard Street.
victoria smith September 23, 2011 at 12:13 PM
It's an obvious fact.....You put any new business in an area and you will be putting people to work. I'm not sure what you are talking about with the restaurants and movie theater on Howard street. That whole area was redone several years ago, and they do have new businesses in that area because I have seen them when taking my kid to buy shoes @ Pj"s. To get back on subject....I hope the sport facility becomes a reality, it would be something very possitive for our Evanston community in more ways than one.
mij September 23, 2011 at 01:25 PM
OF COURSE ITS AN OBVIOUS FACT THAT BUSINESSES CREATE JOBS . They aren't creating a businesses its a sports facility. The city is in process if purchasing a few store fronts on Howard because one of the alderman claimed to have people interested in opening a resturant and Live Theater.
mij September 23, 2011 at 07:17 PM
Convert the former Recycling Center into a new Animal Shelter and convert curent Animal Shelter into a branch library.
mij September 23, 2011 at 11:34 PM
Where is the city planning on storing all those garage bins they purchased. They gave away (Offer to publicfor free(about $20000 given away)) 250 of them a month or so ago to be used for compost. Looks like that have at least that many piled up over at the recycling center. Why the over purchase? Looks like waste of tax dollars to me.
Frank September 24, 2011 at 04:57 AM
Do mij or Richard Schulte ever have anything positive to say? Nothing anyone ever does is good enough for either of you! You should run for office since you both are perfect and have an answer for everything!
victoria smith September 24, 2011 at 03:01 PM
Ok, since it seems as if we are always getting off the topic from the topic that we are really commenting on I am going to do so. Since Evanston is BROKE MIJ, why would we spend money that we do not have to switch the animal shelter to the recycling center and the shelter into a library? Where are the funds for that ? A sports facility is not a business? I tend to differ with you on that. It may not be owned by one person, but by many and it has to be run as a business just like the community centers. Head of opererations, promotional operator, custodial services, payroll,sponsors and the list goes on. The bins? How many residents do we have in Evanston? The city of Evanston buys these bins in bulk because it is cheaper. You have to account for damage and just wear and tear so that they can be replaced. If they did not buy over the amount of one per house then they would have to purchase more at a higher cost. So if you are seeing them stacked some where those are the replacements, obviously. Howard street...restaurant and theater...Alderman? That's a whole different ball game. I suggest that you go to some of the city meetings like allot of us and listen to what is being discussed. Then you can ask all the question you want, take notes, do research and then go back again and propose it to the board. Evanston is not perfect by any means, but it is a great town and it is trying to rectify some of their mistakes.
mij September 24, 2011 at 03:50 PM
Sports center is free huh? Wheres the income to pay for all your people. They buy in bulk and charge taxpayers then give them away for free.
mij September 24, 2011 at 04:41 PM
i goto plenty of those meetings. DO YOU? Suprised you don't know about the Howard Street proposal it was duiscussed at length in a meeting? The shelter is going to need more space with the changes of the Animal ord.
victoria smith September 25, 2011 at 02:10 PM
Yes, I do go to plenty of those meetings MIJ and I am not going to continue with this bantering back and forth. I could give you more information about the trash can situation that you might find interesting and factual,but you would find something else to dispute what I was saying. I could also tell you how the sports facility would pay for"all those people", but I think you would have more fun and find it interesting to do all that detective work on your own. The only thing I have left to say is ...Any progress of moving forward in our town is a plus, the glass is half full not empty!
William September 26, 2011 at 05:40 PM
At the risk of sounding like a 'mij', I would venture to guess that of the 1,351 households that liked the proposal, ALL have young athletic children in the target market age range. Of COURSE they like the idea !! But, is it good for Evanston ? (Alderman Ann) Rainey objected to leasing the recycling center to a non-profit organization for use as a sports facility, calling the decision “irresponsible.” “I see this as really an unfortunate suggestion that we’d virtually give away a public building – granted it’s a lease – to a non-profit who will not be returning this to the tax rolls,” she said. “I have never felt that children who do not have an indoor soccer or baseball field are really deprived.” Another tax vacuum in Evanston ? This tax payer (who practiced his baseball and football in the yard, or at a park with friends) says "no thanks".
John Brinkmann September 27, 2011 at 01:00 AM
An interesting idea and I'm curious---I need to get over to Oakton and take a look at the building--I've never seen it---BUT, Like many posters here one has to be leery about how much it would cost turning the place into a sports facility, and how much to maintain?---it will be expensive no matter what kind of spin proponents put forth here. And keep in mind Robert Crown is still a monolithic financial burden on the city---so we add another one???---thats going to be a hard sell Also keep in mind the prospects of such plan might not pan out where we'd ever see enough people using it to make it worthwhile---the last thing we need is another sporting complex operating in red figures. As things stand, Robert Crown serves the Community in many ways which is really cool, but the ice rink is a financial disaster for tax payers...Per capita, how many Evanstonains actually even use the rink?---Does anyone know how much it costs to play hockey?---it requires a freaking fortune for kids to play hockey and one need not be a financial wizard to figure out maybe 10% or less Evanston residents can afford to put their kids through hockey programs---and it's pretty much the same for figure or speed skating...Last time I went to an ETHS hockey game at Crown I discovered the team isn't even comprised of all Evanston kids---ETHS has to rely on kids from schools that don't offer hockey to fill out a full roster---(compered to New Trier which has 3 full teams)---More To Follow...
John Brinkmann September 27, 2011 at 02:09 AM
My father (Tom Brinkmann--2nd Ward Alderman 1968-1976) was the lone dissenting vote as a member on the City Council in the early 70's when the Crown rink was built ..The money donated to fund the rink was never earmarked toward an ice rink in the first place. Crown wanted a sport facility named for family without ever stipulating what it had to be---It just so happened the powers that be of the time pushed through the ice rink plan, and so it was...My father accurately predicted only a small minority of Evanston residents would be able to use the rink, so he actively lobbied for an all purpose sports complex and city swimming pool knowing it would be far more accessible to the majority of residents...His colleagues on the City Council didn't see things his way and the vote came out 17-1 in favor of the rink (Evanston had two alderman from each ward at this time) So just for grins, let me throw around an idea here---Close the ice rink at Crown and turn it into a full sports & entertainment complex...Then, engage the Village of Wilmette in a partnership program where Evanston & Wilmette would both fund the Centennial Park Ice Rink which happens to be located on the NW border of Evanston & Wilmette---A dual program of residents from both locales could guarantee the rink be used to full potential, and a boundary line could be established where ETHS kids and SW Wilmette (New Trier) kids be combined to make for a more competitive hockey team---The ETNT WildTrev's---Hmmmmm?
Christine Wolf September 28, 2011 at 01:04 PM
Actually, that's a really interesting idea...and thanks for sharing that bit of history about your father, as well. I will say, however, there are many Evanston children who use the ice rink. Perhaps not every day or every month, but ask almost any Evanston student if he/she has taken a field trip (or had a summer camp outing) to Robert Crown's Ice Complex. Until two years ago, I'd never been to one of the ice shows, and let me tell you -- the number of participants, instructors, and audience members astounded me. There's no doubt Robert Crown is run down, but I'm certain that closing the rink would be a huge mistake for our town.
John Brinkmann September 30, 2011 at 08:36 AM
I wouldn't want to see the rink shut down either Christine, and your right, a great many Evanston kids have enjoyed access to the rink through school field trips, and I think it's fair to say there's been solid community involvement in things like the annual Nutcracker on Ice production---etc etc...But I'm going to stand by my belief the rink remains primarily accessible only to a small percentage of Evanstonians, and I challenge anyone to prove otherwise....Operating costs for the rink are mind boggling high, and with the city teetering on bankruptcy, one has to think about fiscal priorities here---Do we keep the mired in debt ice skating rink open when the city is already struggling to finance basic everyday services and programs that affect the entire community?---And top it off by considering a 2nd large sports facility???---With all due respect, I don't see any economical sense for a 2nd sports venue, and I continue to believe the city would be best served to consider all potential cost saving benefits of closing down the Crown rink.
Christine Wolf September 30, 2011 at 01:24 PM
John, I hear your perspective, and the ice rink's pros and cons deserve exploration, but the issue of a for-profit indoor sports complex that "opens the field", as it were, to far more individuals (adults, kids...baseball, soccer, lacrosse, basketball...Evanston residents and beyond...) seems like a very wise idea to me.
mij November 06, 2011 at 01:01 AM
A for profit sports field is a fine idea. But it should not be on city property. City should not get involved in a lease arranagement with this or any other businesses on public property. Business goes under and whose left holding the bag "TAXPAYERS"
Sim Elwood October 17, 2012 at 07:33 PM
The new sports facility would not require tax dollars except to relocate the garbage cans and trucks currently stored at the old recycling center.


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