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Alderman Vows to Fight Including 'Beverly' in New Morgan Park Arena's Name

By Howard Ludwig | December 15, 2014 8:20am
 An ice rink and gymnastics center at 11505 S. Western Ave. had been dubbed the Morgan Park Sports Center since its inception. But the 64,000-square-foot arena has recently been called the Morgan Park-Beverly Sports Center in a letter issued from the mayor's press office. The alderman has vowed to fight the subtle name change.
Morgan Park Sports Center Naming Debate
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MORGAN PARK — The Beverly Arts Center is actually in Morgan Park, as is the Beverly Woods restaurant.

Even the South Side Irish St. Patrick's Day Parade — an event synonymous with the Beverly neighborhood — spends the bulk of its route marching through Morgan Park.

Now it appears another local landmark could suffer the same lapse in geography.

An indoor ice arena and gymnastics center is under construction at 11505 S. Western Ave. in Morgan Park. On the day of the groundbreaking, the 64,000-square-foot facility was dubbed the Morgan Park Sports Center.

The 2.5-acre site was soon fenced off and construction equipment moved in. A privacy screen wrapped around a pair of long-vacant lots slated for the new facility. The screen boasted of the development "coming soon" to Beverly/Morgan Park — though the site is squarely in Morgan Park.

 Ald. Matt O'Shea vows to fight including the name "Beverly" in the new sports arena opening in Morgan Park.
Ald. Matt O'Shea vows to fight including the name "Beverly" in the new sports arena opening in Morgan Park.
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Howard Ludwig says people often blur the line between Morgan Park and Beverly:

The signs lining the construction site also include an artist's rendering of the new building. The computerized drawing shows a picture of the structure named the Morgan Park Sports Center.

Then on Nov. 5, a letter from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's press office was issued detailing the financing of the $18.5 million project. Only this time, it was called the Morgan Park-Beverly Sports Center.

For the record, $10 million of the project is being funded through tax-increment financing dollars. The State of Illinois plans to kick in $4.2 million, and the Chicago Park District will pay $4 million of the construction costs.

Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) is clearly excited about the ice rink and gymnastics center that's scheduled to debut this summer. But the subtle effort to change the facility's name hasn't gone unnoticed.

"I'm going to fight it," O'Shea said.

According to city maps, Morgan Park is a T-shaped neighborhood that begins at 107th Street and stretches south to 119th Street. California Avenue marks the western border, and Halsted Street stands to the east. The neighborhood stops at 115th Street to west of Rockwell Avenue and east of Ashland Avenue.

The northwest portion of Morgan Park is the part most commonly lumped in with neighboring Beverly.

Rich and Mary Ellen Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald Real Estate have been selling homes in the area for nearly 30 years. The couple's business is based in Morgan Park, and they're longtime residents of the neighborhood.

"Beverly is just more well known," Rich Fitzgerald said.

He's been working to promote Morgan Park the bulk of his career. But customers from outside of the Southwest Side aren't as familiar with the area, versus Beverly, which carries a strong reputation throughout the city.

"I've had people who live on 83rd and Damen tell me they live in Beverly," Fitzgerald said.

For the record, Beverly is a crescent-shaped neighborhood with 87th Street and 107th Street as the northern and southern boundaries. Vincennes Road forms the curved eastern border while Western Avenue serves as the western edge to 99th Street. Beverly's western border then jumps to California Avenue stretching down to 102nd Place and then to Francisco Avenue to 107th Street.

Fitzgerald said he's not opposed to having Beverly somewhere within the name of the new ice rink and gymnastics center — so long as Morgan Park gets top billing.

Having such a highly-visible facility within the lesser-known neighborhood is sure to raise the profile of Morgan Park. This will make it easier to market the homes nearby and give Morgan Park residents a landmark to refer too when speaking with about their neighborhood, Fitzgerald said.

"I really think one of the best-kept secrets in Beverly is Morgan Park," he said.

O'Shea also believes the new ice rink and gymnastics center stands to boost awareness of Morgan Park. Though he admittedly wouldn't turn down $5 million from Coca-Cola or another company interested in buying the naming rights to the new facility.

Regardless, no such sponsor has shown interest. And perhaps the greatest value is in naming the facility for the surrounding neighborhood, O'Shea said.

"I need to promote Morgan Park," he said.

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