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Rauner Blocks $3M To Be Spent on Northwest Side's 1st Artificial Turf Field

By Heather Cherone | December 17, 2015 5:58am
 Based on aerial maps, the field would be built on part of a long-forgotten Dunning cemetery that holds the remains of Chicago's poorest and sickest residents who died between 1890 and 1912.
Based on aerial maps, the field would be built on part of a long-forgotten Dunning cemetery that holds the remains of Chicago's poorest and sickest residents who died between 1890 and 1912.
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Chicago Park District

DUNNING — Plans to build a multisport athletic field on long-vacant land in Dunning have fallen victim to the impasse over the state budget, officials said.

Although the $3 million needed to build the synthetic field on what was once home to a mental hospital and long-forgotten cemetery was approved by the General Assembly and signed into law, Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration refuses to allow it to be spent, said state Sen. John Mulroe (D-Jefferson Park).

"It is frustrating," Mulroe said, adding that the project must now be approved again by legislators and the governor, sending the project that has been in the works for more than a decade back to square one.

Chicago Park District officials said the artificial turf playing field — the first set to be built on the Northwest Side — was designed boost sports organizations and make them more competitive with suburban leagues. It was to have opened this summer.

The proposed 7.5-acre athletic field — complete with lights, bleachers, press box, parking and bathrooms — would be built at 4030 N. Oak Park Ave., just north of 19 acres of vacant land where many Northwest Side residents want a new high school to be built to relieve overcrowding at Taft High School.

The field would be built on what is now the heart of Dunning, but was once the grounds of a Cook County poorhouse and later an asylum for mentally ill men and women.

Based on aerial maps, it would be built on what was a long-forgotten cemetery that holds the remains of Chicago's poorest and sickest residents who died between 1890 and 1912 that surrounded the facility.

In August, city officials indefinitely postponed plans to rebuild nearby Oak Park Avenue after discovering the roadwork would likely disturb thousands of bodies in the cemetery.

The location of those remains could push back work on the proposed field, even once state lawmakers reach an agreement on the budget.

The field is the third redevelopment project in Dunning to fall victim to the budget impasse. Rauner has refused to sign a state budget unless Democrats adopt his agenda designed to spur business growth in Illinois.

A veterans facility on Oak Park Avenue that will house veterans suffering from Alzheimer's disease and dementia is scheduled to open in January 2017, at least six months later than originally planned after being caught in the budget crossfire between Rauner and the Democrats who control the General Assembly.

In addition, state funds that the New Horizon Center For The Developmentally Disabled at 6737 W. Forest Preserve Drive planned to use to create a playlot and outdoor recreation area are also in limbo because of the budget fight, Mulroe said.

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