The Wheaton Park District realized an opportunity this week that's worth millions.
Gov. Pat Quinn's office announced Monday that it has awarded a $2,441,300 grant to the for a new acquisition in the area. The state gave a total of $50 million in Park and Recreational Facility Construction (PARC) grants to 22 agencies that applied last November.
The Central Park area includes the Central Park tennis courts, grounds and field house, the old Hubble school property and the former Jewel property, according to park board president Ray Morrill. The grants were awarded for acquisition and development projects statewide. Wheaton's grant is for the acquisition of 1.45 acres containing a 20,000 square foot building, which will be converted to a field house for recreational use, according to a press release from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). Mike Benard, executive of the Wheaton Park District said Thursday that the grant specifically refers to the acquisition of the former Jewel property.
Morrill said Wednesday that the park district was “pleasantly surprised” to hear they were selected to receive the money. He said he could see the park district building a facility for indoor sports at the Jewel property, but that the board has not yet discussed their options.
“There are things to take into consideration as a board,” he said “Money is always a consideration—just because there’s a grant (doesn’t mean money is not an issue).
“I believe the grant is for 80 percent of the purchase of the property, so it’d be up to us to come up with more—plus renovations, so therein lies the due diligence we need to do.”
The former Jewel property, located at 114 E. Willow Avenue, is listed for $3.25 million, according to the City of Wheaton website. The grant could cover about 75 percent of the sale at its list price. The 1.45-acre property has a 19,574 square foot building and 77-space parking lot.
Morrill said the board of commissioners will discuss how to use the grant in their Oct. 19 meeting. “Hopefully we’ll get the buildings and grounds committee to get together and talk about it and hopefully they’ll come to us with a recommendation,” he said. Benard said the committee will meet next week to review the grant and financial details, and prepare information for the board before the Oct. 19 meeting.
Funding was made available for the grant through the state’s “Illinois Jobs Now!” capital program, which has allocated a total of $150 million in grants to assist park districts with recreation construction projects, according to the Illinois Association of Park Districts (IAPD). The public works projects throughout the state are expected to create more than 300 jobs, according to a release from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).
IDNR Director Marc Miller wrote in the release that the grants are "a great opportunity to improve the quality of life in communities throughout Illinois, not only in the long term but the short term as well by creating jobs."
“It’s an honor to have been selected … we submit applications all the time for grants and awards—and we get some, usually you get very few … so it’s both a surprise and an honor," Morrill said. "It’s an opportunity … we’re appreciative that our staff applied … now it’s a matter of what it is used for."