Artificial surface playing field proposed for Jackson, other parks

Jackson Park home.

May, 2011: New artificial surface playing field announced for Jackson in May 2011.

Last fall JPAC and the community were apprised of the possibility and donations for the "Take the Field" initiative of Allstate, the Sacks and Finnegan families, and Chicago Fire (one field each), Bears Care (2 fields each) with Chicago Park District and with a $5 million match from the Pritzker Foundation. Community meetings to determine desire and need and location were held for candidate parks at or near each park. The community and JPAC announced enthusiastic support, with location provisionally set for the track area along Stony Island between 61st and 62nd. CPD announced in the winner that Jackson was one of the selected parks, and a committee of stakeholders and residents was set up, chaired by Ram Nair. Work on a restoration and enhancement project that was undertaken earlier. Final plan was not available yet. The citywide project and its donors were announced in a release May 11, 2011 and reported in the Tribune May 12:

From the June 2011 JPAC Newsletter:

Chicago Park District announced a partnership with the Traubert-Pritzker Family Foundation, Bears Care, Chicago Fire, and others to build several ARTIFICIAL SURFACE FIELDS in parks including 1 in Jackson (this year). Use will be free during ample hours daytime and weekend; fees are expected for leagues. A big user will be park and school teams. Advertized, well attended public meetings were held, JPAC gave its support, a planning and oversight committee has been formed. Persons wishing to join this committee may contact Supervisor Tillis at 773 256-0903.

Tribune, May 12, 2011, Eric Mayer:

Donors pledge to build 10 artificial-turf fields. A Chicago Bears charity and the Chicago Fire are among those teaming up with the new president of the city's parks board to build 10 artificial-turf fields.

The "Take the Field" initiative promised to contribute up to $10 million for the design and construction of the sorts fields in some of the city's most underserved communities. Park Board President Bryan Traubert said Allstate, the Sacks and Finnegan families and the Chicago Fire agreed to sponsor one new field each. Bears Care will sponsor two.

Traubert, who with his wife, Penny Pritzker, runs the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation, went to work on a project he and his wife had envisioned for Chicago years earlier. the foundation will match up to $5 million to pay for the artificial-turf fields, and th e Chicago Park District expects to spend an additional $2 million in public funds.

La Follette, Humboldt, Garfield, Cornell Square, jackson and Pasteur parks will be home to the first six fields, set for completion before the end of the year. The new facilities will be free of charge and open to community groups between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday an Sunday. The Park district is considering fees for sports clubs and leagues in order to pay for maintenance of the facilities.

Sun-Times, May 12, 2011

South, Southwest and West sides will get artificial athletic fields

by Stefano Esposito Staff Reporter/ May 12, 2011 01:11PM

Artificial turf fields are “much easier to maintain.”
With so many feet stomping on them week in week out, the Chicago Park District playing fields can end up looking like “mud pits” in no time at all.

“One of the challenges is trying to make our fields playable for as many months of the year as possible,” said Gia Biagi, the park district’s director of planning.

That challenge just got a little easier. The park district on Wednesday announced plans to build 10 lighted athletic fields covered with artificial turf in parks on the West, Southwest and South sides.

The $12 million project will bring new fields to several of the city’s “underserved and geographically diverse” parks, with six set to be built this year and the remaining four in 2012, Biagi said.

Some $2 million is coming from the park district, with the rest coming from private donors, including the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation.

Artificial turf has several advantages over natural grass, including the fact that it doesn’t need to be mowed. “They are much easier to maintain,” Biagi said. An artificial turf field has a “useful life” of about 10 years, Biagi said.

The following parks are set to get new artificial turf fields: Cornell Square, Garfield, Humboldt, Jackson, La Follette, Pasteur, Abbott, Davis Square, Dunbar and Rowan.

From the January 2011 JPAC Newsletter- December 2010 meeting minutes:

Artificial surface field. A report (avail. on request) was distributed by Ossewaarde on a community meeting. One of the coaches present (Foster Williams?) [at the January JPAC meeting] described and endorsed the proposal as beneficial. Ossewaarde also passed around a letter of provisional support the officers agreed to supply, this being needed last week. Endorsement was conditional on action by this meeting. There was discussion of locations in or near the running track; consensus was in favor of the public and team endorsed location inside the track unless the proposal is changed. The park district has recommended Jackson Park and is seeking a grant (the field will be privately funded), expecting work to start quickly. Extensive upgrade is already underway at the track. Moved, seconded and passed to endorse the proposal.

The report by Gary Ossewaarde on the November 20 community meeting.

Report 12-13-10- Artificial surface field proposal for Jackson Park

By Gary Ossewaarde, JPAC Secretary

A few days after the November 2010 JPAC meeting, we were informed by the Chicago Park District that a community meeting was planned concerning an artificial surface proposal. JPAC officers asked some questions but decided to announce the meeting to our members and encourage a large attendance.

The meeting was held in November at the fieldhouse. Attendance was very large, including many coaches and players from the teams (public and private schools and YMCA Wolf Pack) that use the running track and football field at approximately 62nd and between Stony Island and Cornell Drive.

Chicago Park District staff, including Michael Lange from the Department of Planning, described an offer by a private funding group to place an artificial surface playing field in up to ten CPD parks over the next few years, at no cost to the CPD. CPD would assume responsibility, including financial for scheduling, programming, operation, and maintenance of such fields and would continue approximately the current fees to outside teams and to the park district programs that would be held there (some of the latter are free and some have a fee).

Purpose of the present meeting and similar meetings being held in the ten parks selected by the park districts as candidates for such fields was to gauge community support, likely users, and input on locations and operating conditions—including for auxiliary facilities such as lighting and bleachers. Installation could come next year or later if approved.

Enthusiasm was high, and it was apparent that teams, especially users of the current track and field at 62nd and Stony, had engaged in much discussion with park and district staff about current problems with the field in the track and what improvements could be made—Indeed, major improvements have been approved and are underway for removal of underused facilities such as the shot put that interfere with efficient use of the field and installation of new drainage and lighting. All that had not been decided was upgrade to an artificial surface for a combined, regulation sized soccer and football field inside the limits of the track. CPD and coaches said such a surface would be a major improvement in safety, efficiency, and upkeep. (A health provider said the surface is better in terms of injuries and infections than grass.) Users of other fields such as north of Hayes said they thought a good field at the track would discourage inappropriate uses of the other fields. Many questions were posed and, it seemed, satisfactorily answered. Jackson Park staff was also very satisfied with the proposal.

Alternate locations were considered, including immediately south of the track. But interference with the outfield of the ball field there, the efficiency of coordinating the new surface with work already underway in the track facility, preference for the present inside the track location despite its being a little cramped, and the availability of funding for only one field were decisive for placement inside the track. CPD would look at potential for bleachers, but noted that space for that is limited. CPD staff said they would evaluate the input and make a decision and recommendation, and if Jackson were selected, return to the community when plans are ready.

In early December, JPAC and the other stakeholders were notified by the Park District that it was recommending the Jackson Park track location for an artificial surface field, submitting a grant application, and they requested letters of support from JPAC and the stakeholders. JPAC officers agreed to submit such a letter, being provisional because JPAC would not hold its meeting until after the requested date for the letter, and would place discussion and ratification of support on the December 13 meeting agenda. Gary Ossewaarde drafted and submitted the letter.

The Jackson Park board is therefore introducing a recommendation of approval of the artificial field proposal at the December 13 meeting.

Letter of Support from JPAC approved at the December JPAC meeting and sent.

JPAC officers sent in December the following updated letter to CPD endorsing the artificial field proposal.

Dear Mr. Lange and to whom it may concern:

Thank you for your request for a letter supporting Chicago Park District and associates’ proposal and grant application for an artificial surface field in the Jackson Park Running Track. Jackson Park Advisory Council met December 13, 2010, quorum being present and new officers having been elected, and resolved unanimous and enthusiastic support for the proposal and grant for an artificial surface field at the 62nd and Stony Island running track.

JPAC officers were pleased to attend a public presentation and input gathering meeting November 2010 concerning interest in placement of an artificial surface playing field in Jackson and other parks. We were impressed by the large and enthusiastic attendance by potential user teams and the public, by the concept, by answers to questions and concerns, and by the Park District’s evidence of its careful review of the concept.

We note a consensus at the meeting to support the plan and to place the surface inside the current Jackson Park Running Track (already undergoing upgrade). Also, that installation would not require funds from the Chicago Park District, that the programming and use schedule for the field would be entirely under the control of the Park District, and that the final plan and details will be brought to the community. We believe this improvement would bring major benefits to the park, youth, and schools and communities.

Therefore we offer support pending consideration by our whole body. We also ask that when the drawings are ready they be shared at a council meeting, generally held the second Monday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the field house, 6401 S. Stony Island Ave. You may contact us via President Louise McCurry at and Gary Ossewaarde, Secretary, at

Louise McCurry, President
Toshia Booker-Blakeley, Vice President
Gary Ossewaarde, Secretary
Dwight Powell, Treasurer

The Park District was duly notified of approval at the December meeting.

Changed since this meeting and letter: the Park District will be contributing to the project. Also, work was stopped on the previously undertaken renovation to ensure double work was not done. Some wasted costs were incurred because of the superceded project.