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Morgan Park Sports Center Inches Closer to Reality With Groundbreaking

 A groundbreaking ceremony for the Morgan Park Sports Center was held on Wednesday. The 64,000-square-foot building at 11505 S. Western Ave. will feature an indoor ice rink facility and gymnastics center.
Morgan Park Sports Center
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MORGAN PARK — The groundbreaking ceremony for the Morgan Park Sports Center couldn't come soon enough for Emmett Carr, 9, of Morgan Park.

The youth hockey player proudly wore his St. Jude Hockey Club jersey on Wednesday while flanking Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Ald. Matthew O'Shea (19th) and Chicago Park District Supt. Michael Kelly during the well-publicized dig.

"When [Emmett] could barely walk, he would play hockey on our bathroom floor," said Meg Carr, Emmett's mom.

The Carr family has five children. Meg fully expects both boys to play hockey and her three girls to at least dabble in gymnastics.

The Morgan Park Sports Center will be able to accommodate both when it's completed next summer. The 64,000-square-foot building at 11505 S. Western Ave. will have an indoor ice rink and as well as a gymnastics center suitable for preschool students up to club-level gymnasts.

"It's a lot easier to bring five kids here than someplace else to play hockey," said Carr, who lives about a mile away from the site.

Construction of the Chicago Park District facility was first announced in October. The center will sit on a pair of long-vacant lots on the northeast and southeast corners of 115th Street and Western Avenue.

As a result, 115th Street will be closed east of Western. The 2.5 acres of land that will become the Morgan Park Sports Center housed a grocery store and adjacent gas station in the early 1980s.

The indoor facility was originally projected to cost $12 million. Tax increment financing funds as well as money from the state and the park district are all funding the project.

The latest estimates peg design and construction of the indoor arena at $18 million, though park district officials still see the facility as a bargain.

One official compared the $281.25 per square foot price of the center to the $400 square foot price for the recently completed Ping Tom Park in Armour Square. That $16 million field house included a boat launch and indoor swimming pool.

Chuck Peters, of Mount Greenwood, also sees value in a new ice rink. Peters is the head coach of the Marist High School hockey team and hopes to make the Morgan Park Sports Center the team's home rink.

The RedHawks currently play in southwest suburban Orland Park — 14 miles away from the Mount Greenwood high school. The Morgan Park Sports Center is less than three miles from the Catholic school's campus.

"Hopefully, we can get our foot in the door and get something here," Peters said.

Ada Wainwright, of Oak Lawn, also hopes to participate in the programs being offered at the center. Her 9-year-old son, Cooper, also plays hockey for St. Jude and her 7-year-old daughter, Kaitlyn, has shown interest in both figure skating and gymnastics.

Because of the dearth of indoor ice rinks, Wainwright said Cooper's practices often start at 6:30 a.m. in suburban Crestwood and Orland Park. She believes this new rink will help ease demand and hopefully translate to more reasonable ice time.

"There are just so many teams trying to get the ice," Ada Wainwright said.

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