Skokie playfield work underway
11/7/12 Construction continues on the Skokie Playfields and the Nielsen Tennis Center on Thursday , November 8, 2012. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 16, 2012 6:10AM
WINNETKA — After years of planning, heavy equipment finally began tearing into the Skokie playfields last week as the Winnetka Park District began implementing phase-two of their master plan.
Phase-one projects, which includes an addition to the A.C. Nielsen Tennis Center and a re-paved front parking lot, are on schedule with the parking lot expected to reopen this week and the tennis center addition expected to be finished Feb. 1.
Phase-two work officially began Nov. 5 when several large tractors began digging and moving mounds of earth behind the park district headquarters.
Under the new plan, the playfields will have four new baseball fields and two synthetic surface fields, which are to be used for a number of sports and activities.
Winnetka Park District Executive Director Terry Schwartz has a front row seat to the construction taking place just a few feet outside of his office windows. Schwartz, who began working for the park district in 2009, joined the staff shortly after the planning process began and thanks his board and employees for making the work a reality.
“The park board has been spectacular in their desire to get this project done and have something for the community,” Schwartz said. “A good staff will get you where you need to go.”
Schwartz said the new synthetic fields are expected to be a, “revenue producer,” for the park district when they open in April or May and revealed that a group has already agreed to a six-year contract to use the fields. The agreement is expected to generate between $80,000 and $90,000 per year.
“We engaged in quantifiable research to determine what the actual use was of our fields in prime time,” Schwartz said. “That came out to 89 percent without any rest. That told us in order to improve what is running we needed to go to this synthetic surface.”
Underneath the new fields will be two large, underground tanks designed to hold stormwater. Pumps will allow the park district to remove water from the fields and gain more use out of the site.
“Last July you would have seen water all over the fields,” Schwartz said. “Now we’ll be able to handle the 100-year storm.”
The natural grass fields will be irrigated and are designed to divert water to the west toward the golf driving range. The driving range itself will be lowered three feet and include new target greens when it reopens in June.
The grass fields will need at least two growing seasons before they are playable and Schwartz expects them to realistically be ready in the summer of 2014.
Walking paths around the fields will offer opportunities for adult exercise, Schwartz says, and a new, 10-foot wide sidewalk will be built along Hibbard Road to increase capacity for bike users, pedestrians and students of Washburne Middle School across the street.
“We wanted to make sure we have a significant entryway to the site to make sure users feel welcome to be here,” Schwartz said of a new Walk of Fame, which will lead into the completed fields. “It really takes a good staff to come up with a good project like this.”