By Megann Horstead | For The Bugle
After a halt in plans to build a recreation center on Joliet’s east side, Joliet Park District officials are looking to resume their effort with the project as early as August.
“This is has been… a long time coming,” said Tom Carstens, executive director of Joliet Park District. “I think groundbreaking for this building should’ve been done over a year and a half ago.”
Details shared during an April 27 special session of the Joliet Park District Board of Commissioners revealed that construction is slated to begin as early as August, at which point the bidding and permitting process are hoped to be completed.
Park District officials first began meeting with members of the community about the plan to build a recreation center on the city’s east side in 2015. To allow the project to proceed without another halt, they maintained that costs to build the facility will need to remain within the budget and be sustainable once in operation.
Carstens said there is a sizeable contingency built within the Park District’s plan for the east side recreation center.
Budgeted at $7.5 million, the project consists of putting the parking lot adjacent to Nowell Park to new use by housing two gyms, a fitness center and a multipurpose room. New to the plan is an indoor track and space for a preschool.
The facility will play host not only to sporting events but also special events, meetings, parties and programs.
“This plan gives us a lot of flexibility,” Carstens said, noting the space gives them room to expand outward and convert within.
The delay for this 30,677 square-foot project stems from administrative changes, traffic concerns and issues pertaining to a nearby floodplain.
Namely, Carstens was brought on staff to lead the Joliet Park District about a year ago.
Carstens said another problem was “we just wanted to make sure before we put up a big building—a beautiful building—that we weren’t going to have an issue with the floodplain. We did that. We received the FEMA report. That came back clean, clean enough where it’s tight, but we can fit this facility on the property.”
Joliet Park District officials are still looking to meet with representatives from the Illinois Department of Transportation to talk about traffic patterns. Improvements for Route 53 have entered Phase I engineering. IDOT is looking at moving Route 52 from Doris Avenue up to Mills Road by working with the Will County Highway Department.
“We’ve crossed those hurdles, which I’ll be honest with you should’ve been done a couple years ago because that’s what really has delayed the project,” Carstens said. “Once we did that, we thought, ‘OK, let’s get moving. Let’s get back to the chalkboard and look at the facility that we proposed building.’”
If the facility continues to follow the architect’s plan, the grand opening could be anticipated as early as September 2018.