CRC Celebrates its First Year of Impact

Park District of Oak Park Community Recreation Center Celebrates its First Year of Impact; Thousands of community members have found A Place to Belong

(OAK PARK, IL) – Last May, the Park District of Oak Park (PDOP) opened its doors to the new Community Recreation Center (CRC), providing Oak Park children, teens, adults and seniors A Place to Belong with affordable and accessible health and wellness facilities, basketball courts, pickleball courts, walking track and safe after-school programming.

The CRC recently hosted an anniversary celebration with healthy snacks and gifts for members, but the real celebration was the impact on the community.

Providing Access for Everyone
“We have served over 10,000 individuals at the CRC all within the first year of opening, showing the real need for this space,” said Jan Arnold, Park District of Oak Park executive director. “We’re proud to help advance the health and wellness of our residents – giving kids a place to go after school and providing accessible resources for recreation.”

Elisa Mathis of Oak Park joined the CRC when it opened and has benefited from a CRC scholarship. “Without the scholarship, I could not afford the gym or any activities.” Since joining the CRC, Mathis has seen her health improve. During the week, you’ll find her walking the indoor track or working out in the fitness center. She also participates in several active adult programs.

Oak Park’s Only Indoor Basketball Courts
When planning began in 2019, there were a few amenities residents identified as “must haves,” including an indoor basketball court. Before the CRC, Oak Park had no indoor basketball court, leaving a significant gap in programming opportunities and safe spaces for children and teens after school and on weekends.

The indoor basketball court and renewed interest in the WNBA have spurred a growing interest in the PDOP’s women’s basketball league, bucking a nationwide trend of female participation declining in sports. “Our league is growing every year,” Arnold said.

Oak Park resident Lindsay Gaskins celebrates the program’s growth. “There are so many women who played basketball in their past that are coming out of the woodwork and starting to play again, which is great.”

Safe Spaces
When the school bell rings, where do kids go? They head to the CRC for open gym, tutoring and epic e-sports battles.

But Oak Park teens seek more than a place to exercise or hang out with friends. They’re also looking for safe spaces to share their thoughts, feelings and experiences – a place to seek a listening ear, guidance and resources in a private and nonjudgmental manner.

The Park District partnered with the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park. “If teens are struggling with suicidal ideation or feelings of hopelessness, they know they are not alone,” said Cheryl Potts, executive director of the Community Mental Health Board of Oak Park Township. The group has offered 35 free workshops and supported more than 200 community members.

Positively Impacting the Environment
The Park District is committed to sustainability and designed the CRC as a certified Net Zero building. To achieve this, the building features:

  • More than 660 solar panels
  • Energy-producing treadmills
  • High-efficiency HVAC systems and LED lighting throughout
  • Permeable pavers that catch precipitation and surface runoff, allowing it to filter to the soil
  • Benches inside the building built using reclaimed wood from trees from Park District parks

But Wait, There’s More
In one year, the CRC also:

  • Became self-funding
  • Welcomed 5,000 paid members and 6,000 walking track members
  • Provided after-school programming for more than 1,200 middle and high school students, with
    access to homework tutoring, mental health resources, sports and other activities
  • Offered 40 walk-in hours per week with the Community Mental Health Board
  • Hosted 30 public events and meetings, including the Oak Park/River Forest Chamber of
    Commerce Health and Wellness Fair

For more information on the CRC, visit


About Park District of Oak Park: The Park District of Oak Park serves the recreation needs of Oak Park’s 53,000 residents, providing nearly 3,000 programs and special events annually throughout our versatile recreation centers, 18 parks totaling 84 acres, two outdoor pools, indoor ice rink, gymnastic center, the Oak Park Conservatory, Cheney Mansion and Pleasant Home. Since 1912, our high-quality programs and well-maintained parks and facilities have dependably met residents’ diverse leisure, wellness, childcare
and other needs and helped enhance quality of life. Learn more at

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