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Park District Using Grant to Buy Hubble Gyms

Grant will foot most of the $3 million bill to purchase gyms at Hubble.

The Wheaton Park District will use a grant of more than $2 million to pay for its half of the former Hubble school building, Mike Benard, executive director of the Wheaton Park District, said.

The grant money was originally going to pay for the because the district anticipated a loss of the indoor athletic space at Hubble when the Community Unit School District 200 sold the property.

Gov. Pat Quinn’s office in October announced it awarded the Park and Recreational Facility Construction (PARC) grant to the park district for a new acquisition in the “Central Park area,” referring to the former Jewel property, 114 Willow Ave., to be converted to an indoor athletic facility.

The park district was one of 22 agencies that received a total of $50 million in PARC grants through the “Illinois Jobs Now!” capital program, as “targeted investments to eligible local governments for acquisition, development, construction, rehabilitation or other capital improvements to park and recreation facilities in Illinois,” according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).

But, when the park district learned the Jewel property was under contract with another buyer, it requested permission to use the grant money to buy Hubble, instead.

“We understood there was a bid put in on it (Jewel) and we weren’t trying to compete with them,” Park board president Ray Morrill told Patch.

Benard wrote in the request to IDNR that while the Jewel property would help the park district meet its indoor space needs, “it would be substandard to the existing space we have been using (Hubble).” He wrote that while the district could negotiate to acquire the Jewel property, it would require a longer schedule than negotiating for Hubble.

Last week, IDNR approved the switch.

“It’s saving the grant in spite of the fact the target of the grant is under contract by another party,” Benard said.

Karen May, a spokeswoman for SuperValu, the owner of the former Jewel site, said Wednesday a buyer is negotiating a sale contract for the 1.45-acre property.

The grant will cover 75 percent of the sale price of the 3.73-acre parcel of the Hubble property. The park district is purchasing the parcel from Bradford Equities, LLC, the site’s developer.

Bradford plans to bring a , and to divide the property into six lots. The developer will sell “Lot 2,” which includes the 50,000-square-foot gym building and a 118-space parking lot, to the park district.

Park commissioner Phil Luetkehans said district staff and board members are "ecstatic" about the grant. "I think they (IDNR) see how important this project is to us and to the city as a whole... It's not only Mariano's bringing traffic into downtown... so does us having tournaments and having a centralized place where we can have activities that bring people into downtown."

Benard said the additional influx of about $2.25 million from IDNR, “accelerates our ability to deal with other capital needs in the district.

“We’ll look at the entire capital development program for the district. The money we save can go many places—and that’s the decision of the board’s, subsequent to knowing the costs to rehabilitate the gyms, the athletic fields and the central garden park (at Hubble),” he said. “The first priority is to complete Hubble within the budget amount we’ve outlined.”

Luetkehans said capital expenditures that are top priorities include synthetic turf fields, improvements at Northside Park, shoreline stabilization and asphalt replacement. He said Graf Park is a potential site for a turf field.

The Park District Board of Commissioners will meet next Wednesday to approve a legal agreement with Bradford to determine the sale price of Lot 2, which Benard said will be $3 million. He said the park district will spend up to a total of $6 million of its reserves on Hubble, including $3 million for acquisition and $3 million for rehabilitation.

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