Streeter­ville park ren­o­va­tion to elim­i­nate 2 softball fields

Chicago Sun-Times - - CITY BEAT - BY NADER ISSA Staff Re­porter Email: nissa@ sun­times. com

A pop­u­lar Streeter­ville park will have a dif­fer­ent look come sum­mer as the city is set to get rid of two softball fields and re­place them with grass.

Ald. Brian Hop­kins ( 2nd) plans to re­make Lake Shore Park in early June to ac­com­mo­date the large num­ber of fam­i­lies liv­ing in the area by pro­vid­ing a space for young kids to play out­side.

“We’re look­ing to get away from tightly sched­uled pro­gram­ming,” Hop­kins said. “The idea is to let the com­mu­nity use the open fields for their own recre­ational needs as they see fit.”

The main sum­mer at­trac­tion at the park, 808 N. Lake Shore Drive, has been a coed softball league that used the park’s two softball di­a­monds on week­day evenings.

With the di­a­monds gone, the Chicago Sport & So­cial Club will need to find some­where else for the softball league; it has paid the Chicago Park District $ 14,000 a year to host the league at Lake Shore Park.

The di­a­monds are only two of 60 in the city that the club uses for softball. Hop­kins said the club wasn’t ini­tially happy to lose the fields but “reluc­tantly ac­cepted” the change.

The Chicago Sport & So­cial Club didn’t re­turn re­quests for com­ment.

While los­ing the league means less money for the park district, Hop­kins said the Streeter­ville neigh­bor­hood gains more in re­turn.

“[ The old deal was] not at all a good trade- off. It’s worth so much more for the res­i­dents to use the park on a sum­mer evening,” he said. “We’re not go­ing to miss the $ 14,000.”

The Chicago Park District didn’t re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

Hop­kins said the re­vamped park will have new sod and a new drainage sys­tem. The $ 30,000 ex­pense was es­sen­tial, he said; the sur­face cur­rently has just a thin layer of top­soil on top of a layer of clay and, be­low that, land­fill. The park, sur­rounded by lux­ury high- rises, of­ten has been muddy in the sum­mer, he said, with stand­ing wa­ter that draws mos­qui­toes.

With the softball league out of the pic­ture from 6: 30 to 8: 30 p. m. on sum­mer week­days, Hop­kins said the com­mu­nity, which has more fam­i­lies than it did when the di­a­monds were in­stalled, will have more room in the park for other ac­tiv­i­ties.

“It’s the right thing to do, and it’s a de­ci­sion that’s largely sup­ported by the com­mu­nity,” Hop­kins said.

Janet Mur­phy, who lives in build­ing over­look­ing the park, said she uses the space of­ten and en­joys watch­ing the softball games in the sum­mer. She said she has no prob­lem with Hop­kins but she doesn’t like the idea of re­mov­ing an or­ga­nized sport that can keep peo­ple dis­tracted from Chicago’s big­ger is­sues.

“It’s al­most a ge­nius park, be­cause it’s so sim­ple,” Mur­phy said. “[ Hop­kins is] not a bad guy, he’s try­ing to make peo­ple happy. But I think the idea of tak­ing out sports ac­tiv­i­ties to have peo­ple sit down isn’t bril­liant. They’re tak­ing away some­thing we’ve had.”

Mur­phy said she thinks the de­ci­sion was made with lit­tle in­put from the com­mu­nity.

Hop­kins said that’s not the case. He set up com­mu­nity meet­ings, and he spoke with the park’s ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee, which also gave the project its OK.

“I feel con­fi­dent that a ma­jor­ity of the lo­cal res­i­dents think this is the right thing to do,” Hop­kins said.

Al Shiner, a mem­ber of the park’s ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee— a vol­un­tary, self- ap­pointed group which meets to sup­port the func­tion­ing of the park — said the unan­i­mous vote is mis­lead­ing. Shiner didn’t ap­prove of the ren­o­va­tions, but he wasn’t at the meet­ings with Hop­kins to voice his con­cerns.

“I think it would be a great dis­ser­vice to this com­mu­nity to get rid of the di­a­monds,” Shiner said. “[ Softball is] right next to ap­ple pie and Chevro­let; it’s an Amer­i­can tradition.”

Shiner said he thinks a small group of neigh­bors com­plained that the park gets too noisy dur­ing the softball games, and that forced Hop­kins to make a change.

Hop­kins said he met with res­i­dents who were op­posed to the changes, and he com­pro­mised on cer­tain is­sues.

Some res­i­dents ex­pressed con­cern for a pro­gram which lets kids go to the park to prac­tice pitch­ing and hit­ting on Satur­day morn­ings in the sum­mer.

Hop­kins said the group didn’t need full softball fields, so he agreed to buy a por­ta­ble back­stop, which will be brought out on Satur­days for the “lit­tle slug­gers” pro­gram.

He said the change will take about 30 days to complete, with ren­o­va­tions set to start in the first­week of June.


The city plans to re­move the two softball di­a­monds at Lake Shore Park, 808 N. Lake Shore Drive.

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