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Community Recreation Center Collaboration

Community Recreation Center Exploration
Updated July 2019

With the completion of the Park District's community recreation center feasibility study in 2016 and the discontinuation of discussions with Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 and River Forest Park District (see below for more details), the Parks Foundation of Oak Park is now exploring the concept of a community recreation center. Here is more information about this project.

Community Recreation Center Collaboration
A Joint Exploration by the Park District of Oak Park, Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 and River Forest Park District

July 2017event_feasibilitystudy

The Board of Park Commissioners for the Park District of Oak Park and River Forest Park District and the Board of Education for Oak Park River Forest High School District 200 approved a Memorandum of Understanding In July 2017 to explore partnership opportunities for construction of a Community Recreation Center (CRC). This collaboration is in part the result of a feasibility study conducted by the Park District of Oak Park in 2016, which confirmed community support for this type of facility. During the study, the community emphasized the need for the Park District to collaborate with other governmental entities and community organizations. This collaboration is also in part the result of D200’s need to address the replacement of its aging pools and the need expressed by the River Forest community for quality, indoor recreation facilities.

Concurrently with the exploration of a community recreation center, the Oak Park River Forest High School organized the Imagine OPRF Work Group to make long-term facility recommendations to the District 200 Board of Education. Recommendations are planned to be presented in mid-2018. 

Amenities being considered for the community recreation center include an indoor pool, a multi-use gymnasium with three basketball courts, indoor walking track, fitness center, program and meeting spaces and more.

November 2017 CRC Update

The Memorandum of Understanding specified a December 1, 2017, deadline for all parties to agree to all the elements necessary for the collaboration to move forward, or the MOU would expire. On November 13, 2017 the River Forest Park District Board of Commissioners voted not to extend the MOU and District 200 Board voted not to extend the MOU at the November 16, 2017 Board Meeting.

The Park District of Oak Park appreciated the initial conversations between the River Forest Park District and D200regarding collaboration on an Oak Park / River Forest Community Recreation Center.  All three entities learned more about the needs of each organization and both of our communities. While the MOU was not extended, D200 and the River Forest Park District stated they  are open to continuing conversations once the Imagine OPRF process is completed next year.

The Park District of Oak Park values a collaborative effort to deliver a facility that meets the recreation and wellness needs of our residents.  We strongly believe that providing the opportunity for residents of all ages and economic levels to gather at the Community Recreation Center would be one of the main benefits of this type of facility; contributing to a sense of place in our community.

PDOP Letter to the Editor – November 15, 2017

CRC Benefits

The concept of a Community Recreation Center is to bring community members together in one location to enjoy a variety of programs, services and facilities. As a community hub, it will serve the recreation needs of Oak Park and River Forest residents of all ages, interests, and abilities. Bringing residents together, whether young or old, helps to forge positive relationships and a stronger sense of community. The following are just a few of the many benefits of a community recreation center:

  • Increased healthy lifestyle options through year-round access to a walking track, fitness spaces, gymnasiums, pools, and more
  • Increased access to safe, afterschool, drop-in spaces
  • Increased access to quality indoor pool space for D200 aquatic team practices
  • Creative spaces for youth and adults
  • Increased community meeting and program spaces


Immediately following the completion of the 2016 feasibility study, the Park District of Oak Park completed a pro forma study, which concluded a Community Recreation Center, with specific amenities, could be financially self-sustaining.

Funding models for the construction of the Community Recreation Center were explored as part of the Memorandum of Understanding. The estimated cost of a Community Recreation Center is $38-44 million. The three governmental entities discussed the possibility of each initially contributing up to $5 million toward the project and raising another $5 million in private contributions. This leaves a balance of more than $20 million to be covered.  The Park District of Oak Park does not have funds available, nor bonding capacity to go out for referendum, to cover the remaining costs of construction. One possibility might be for the Park District of Oak Park borrow the remaining costs of construction from District 200. In this potential scenario, the park district would repay these funds to the district over a period of time to be determined. Through this collaboration, it is the intent of all three governmental entities to maximize tax dollars while increasing programs and services to their constituents.

Additional Partners

The Park Districts and District 200 welcome additional project collaborators. The Community Mental Health Board has expressed interest in some level of facility usage, and now that the Memorandum of Understanding is signed, further exploration can determine what might be appropriate.  It should be noted that during the 2016 Feasibility Study, D200 students expressed a desire to have mental health services be a part of this Community Recreation Center. Therefore, the Collaboration team is keeping this component top of mind when determining how to best service our communities.

Next Steps

Currently, three locations for a community recreation center have been explored. When discussions resume, the next step will be to identify the location that best meets the needs of all entities. The benefits and risks of building a community recreation center will be closely examined by each group. Facility operations and use agreements will be discussed and finance options will continue to be investigated. Community information meetings will be scheduled if planning moves forward.

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