LITTLE VILLAGE — A city park planned to replace an old asphalt factory on the Southwest Side features baseball and soccer fields, a skate park and basketball court, final plans show.
The plans, unveiled earlier this month, include three baseball fields: two smaller multi-purpose fields and field that is high school regulation-sized. There are also two soccer fields as well as the skate park and basketball court, among other amenities.
Proposed in September by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the park would occupy the old Celotex asphalt factory at 31st Street and Albany Avenue. Emanuel pushed the plan again in March, saying it was part of a $2.9 billion plan to develop seven neighborhoods.
Plans were presented to the community at an April 9 meeting.
Alex Flores, a 23-year-old student who lives in the area, said he approved of the design but said he would like to see more local artists involved in the project.
“I asked if artists in the community could do the design, like maybe involving community a little more, but overall I liked the design. I think it’s gonna be a good one,” he said.
Not all meeting attendees were thrilled with the proposal.
Kimberly Wasserman Nieto, executive director of the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, which met with the Chicago Park District a half-dozen times to discuss the proposal, said many residents were unhappy about having three baseball fields take up so much space at the park.
“Why are there so many baseball fields? In a neighborhood like Little Village, especially across from Cook Country Jail, you’ll need more than one basketball court. Let’s be real about the needs of the community,” she said.
Rafael Hurtado, an organizer with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, noted that two basketball courts at nearby Gary Elementary School and Piotowski Park often have a "a line there just to play. People wait an hour for their team just to play."
However, Chicago Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons said that the plans were shaped after “extensive” outreach, and said the community had already given the current plan its “stamp of approval.”
She said via email that the baseball fields “were among the features requested by the community.”
Construction on the park was originally scheduled to begin in March, but the community engagement process, which including two wider meetings, delayed the start date.
The project, which has a budget of $8 million, would have to be reassessed if the baseball fields were to change, Lemons said.
Still, Wasserman Nieto said it’s an issue of properly using the available funds to best serve the neighborhood’s needs.
“There’s money. It’s really a question of how you’re allocating it and where you’re putting it,” she said. “Let’s work together to find that money.”