STREETERVILLE — A Downtown alderman wants the softball fields removed from a picturesque park near the John Hancock Center, saying the diamonds take up too much space for anything else.
Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd) told the Chicago Park District board last week that he would prefer a "grassy meadow" over the ball fields at Lake Shore Park, 808 N. Lake Shore Drive, citing concerns from neighbors who say its adult softball league has outgrown the quaint park surrounded by luxury high-rises.
"It really ties up the park for hours a day all summer long," Hopkins said. "You don't even want to be on the running track because you'll be hit by a fly ball."
David Matthews chats about the battle for green space at Lake Shore Park.
The park has two diamonds that are primarily used by an adult coed league run by Chicago Sport & Social Club. Hopkins said the diamonds "are not really in an ideal place" for the league, which has some "pretty good players" who often hit the ball out of the park.
"One ball hit the side of a CTA bus not too long ago," he said. "It's an accident waiting to happen."
Players in the league usually drink in the park, but Hopkins said there have been no concerns about that. Rather, neighbors are just upset with the lack of space when the softball league plays its games.
"If you want to use the field to teach your kid to kick a soccer ball, throw a Frisbee, lay a blanket down for a picnic, you can’t," he said.
The league pays the park district about $14,000 per season to use the park, a sum that's "typically one tax bill from one condominium in the buildings next to the park," Hopkins said.
Chris Hastings, president of the Chicago Sport & Social Club, did not return a message seeking comment.
Hopkins said his proposal is "under review" by the park district, and he hopes work to replace the ball fields begins this fall. The cost of removal is unknown. A park district spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment.
David Kostelansky, president of the Streeterville park's advisory council, also wants the softball fields gone. He said he's been hit in the head by softballs twice.
"It's dangerous," he said. "If you have kids there's not much space to play."
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