Creating partnerships with other governmental and community agencies to provide services is the key to achieving and maintaining an excellent parks and recreation system. One example of this type of collaboration is the initiative to develop all-weather fields in collaboration with School District 97.
One of the continued needs identified in our comprehensive plans is the need for additional field space. Oak Park has consistently scored lower in the amount of available field space as compared to our benchmark communities. Limited land resources can result in overused athletic fields and a consistently high demand for field space. Recognizing the need to better utilize these precious resources, the Park District completed a Field Turf Study in March 2013 to evaluate our existing fields and to develop potential improvements. One of the key findings in this study was the need to incorporate a minimum of 3 synthetic turf fields into our existing parks system.
Since the study in 2013, two all-weather fields have been incorporated into the Oak Park system. One synthetic turf field was installed as part of the Ridgeland Common Recreation Complex renovation in 2014. In addition, the Park District partnered with School District 97, Irving School PTO, AYSO Soccer and the Chicago Edge Soccer Club in 2014 to install a synthetic turf field at Irving School.
Two additional synthetic turn fields at Julian and Brooks Middle Schools were constructed in fall 2015 through the joint efforts of the Park District and School District 97, and the Good Heart Work Smart Foundation, AYSO, Chicago Edge Soccer and Oak Park Youth Baseball/Softball Association. Both fields use Nike Grind (ground up tennis shoe soles) as the infill, which has been identified as a more environmentally-friendly option.
The addition of all-weather fields at these schools will help us meet the community’s demand for quality outdoor field space while providing outdoor space for physical education and sports programs and a place to socialize during lunch breaks. These fields will also be available for the enjoyment of the general public when school is not in session.