SYCAMORE – Just short of the impromptu pond at the sports complex in Sycamore is where a set of six new baseball diamonds will end. They’re currently soccer fields, but less than a half-mile south of there is where the Sycamore Park District’s 89-acre soccer complex will open in spring 2021.
That park is tentatively named Riverside Park.
“If someone wants to donate a whole bunch of money, we might name the park after them,” Sycamore Park District Executive Director Dan Gibble said Thursday morning at the current sports complex.
Gibble elaborated that the district board had a policy that anyone who donates 25 percent of the cost to build a park could have their name tagged on it.
As it turns out, the park district will spend about $1.6 million on the park, meaning the district could honor a donor of $400,000 – exactly the amount the district lost when it was shocked to not land an Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
“We were surprised, frankly, that we didn’t get the grant,” Gibble said.
The new park is part of the Action 2020 project that resulted in the building of the new Legacy Campus, which features the new Community Center, a sled hill and a dog park, the Great Western Trail expansion and the expansion of the existing sports complex. Gibble said the board’s pie-in-the-sky wish is that it can acquire the 80-acre farm parcel near Hillside Road, in order to make the complex one continuous entity.
Chauncey Carrick, athletics director for Sycamore School District 427, said the expansion is a great development. He said soccer players in particular need the space to hone their skills.
“It’s going to give kids a lot more space to develop their skills,” he said.
So here’s the breakdown: Bids will go out to contractors who can handle the $1.6 million bill to build the new soccer complex. Whereas shelters and a playground were previously figured into the plan, they’re gone, because the state’s grant wasn’t awarded.
Gibble said this is a two-phase deal, and that the first phase will result in 13 soccer pitches, ranging from fields to comply with high school regulations to tiny fields for the small children. The hope is that down the road, Phase 2 will mean more pitches, Gibble said.
“Our youth soccer and baseball projects have been waiting so long,” Gibble said.
The property to the west of the sports fields will be prairie – the park district has been farming it since it was annexed from the city, he said – as well as trails. The parking lot to the far-east end has about 175 spaces.
Once the new soccer complex is established, the old soccer fields in the previous sports compound will be turned into ball diamonds, Gibble said.
Gibble said the Community Center has done well since it opened less than a year ago, and that the chief participants are teenagers after school and older folks – including the pickle-ballers we’re all afraid to challenge.
“I got in there, and I was huffing breath,” he said.