MORGAN PARK — The area around Kennedy Park is quickly becoming a South Side destination for hockey.
Work has begun on a project to transform a pair of tennis courts at 11320 S. Western Ave. into a set of cages to be used for roller hockey. The two junior hockey rinks will measure 50 feet by 100 feet.
New exterior gates will separate the rinks from the two tennis courts that will remain at Kennedy Park, said Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, a Chicago Park District spokeswoman.
Listen to Howard Ludwig discuss the two hockey rink projects set for Morgan Park:
The remaining tennis courts will be resurfaced and re-striped to allow for both junior and regular tennis play. The project is expected to be finished by August.
“As hockey is growing in popularity, this rink will be a great amenity to the children of the community," park district CEO Michael Kelly said in a prepared statement.
Construction of the roller hockey rink begins just ahead of the scheduled groundbreaking of the Morgan Park Sports Center. The $12 million project at 115th Street and Western Avenue calls for an indoor ice rink and gymnastics center.
The 62,000-square-foot facility is expected to open in summer 2015.
“As part of Mayor Emanuel’s commitment to supporting communities, the Chicago Park District strives to be responsive to the needs of the community,” Kelly said.
Neighborhood kids have been using the tennis courts at Kennedy Park as a makeshift roller hockey rink for years.
Roy Norris, 18, of Morgan Park said pickup games on the tennis courts occasionally net upward of 20 players despite posted signs saying the courts are, "For tennis use only."
"No one really uses these tennis courts. Plus, they are all cracked up and stuff," he said.
Nick Maida, 14, of Morgan Park rolled out a garbage can and a construction cone to be used as goalposts during a recent roller hockey game. He humbly requested that the park district provide legit goals with actual nets as part of the project.
All six players on the court during the recent spring pick-up game were excited about the prospect of a new roller hockey rink.
"I'll say my prayers every night, if that helps get a rink out here," Norris said.