HUMBOLDT PARK — Humboldt Park's highly-anticipated new batting cage should be ready to debut next spring — just in time for spring baseball, according to city officials.
Initially, officials said the batting cage, first announced in February, was slated to open over the summer, but securing the funding took longer than expected, and construction started in late summer rather than early spring, said Jessica Maxey-Faulkner, spokeswoman for the Chicago Park District.
The batting cage, coming to Division Street and Kedzie Avenue, will offer mechanical pitching machines with five hitting stations — open to baseball and softball leagues as well as the general public, according to the mayor's office. To accommodate a range of ages and skill levels, pitch speeds will range from 40 mph to 70 mph.
Once the facility is built, it will be the park district's third automated batting cage.
In total, the facility is expected to cost $656,000, including $325,000 in Tax Increment Finance funds — a move that was criticized by Gov. Bruce Rauner earlier this year.
Rauner said the plan was "lovely" but suggested the mayor should re-evaluate his priorities.
"Batting cages are good, but you know what? Our teachers need that money, and our kids need that money," Rauner previously said.
TIF districts capture all growth in the property tax base in a designated area for a set period of time, usually 20 years or more, and divert it into a special fund for projects designed to spur redevelopment and eradicate blight.
As for the batting cage, the rest of the funding will come from park district capital funds and donations, Maxey-Faulkner said.
The facility will likely be named after Nancy Franco-Maldonado, the late wife of Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) who, until her death from cancer in 2015, was active in the Humboldt Park neighborhood.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Park District board unanimously and approved opening up the 45-day period in which the public can give comments on the name of the facility.