Parkland for the future: convert Tinley Park Mental Health Center to recreational center
Sen. Hastings, others urge Pritzker to sign bill for Tinley plan
By Steve Metsch
State Sen. Michael Hastings recalls the fun he had as a boy at the Tinley Park Park District facilities.
He wants more kids to have such fun.
“I grew up in this community,” Hastings said. “I swam in that pool when it first opened.”
Getting the water park built required teamwork, he said: “Our community came together. It spurred friendships, partnerships.”
With that in mind, Hastings along with other legislators and local organizations, held a news conference at White Water Canyon Water Park on 171st Street on June 27 regarding the possible fun for future generations.
They urged Gov. JB Prtizker to sign a bill that would result in a huge recreational development at the former home of the Tinley Park Mental Health Center.
Located at the northwest corner of 183rd Street and Harlem Avenue, 280 acres of land has been vacant since the center closed in 2012.
The Tinley Park Park District wants control of the site, has plans for 90 of the acres that includes baseball/softball diamonds, soccer/football fields and other amenities which officials said will be for not just village residents but the entire Southland.
House Bill 3743 will soon be sent to Pritzker, who has 60 days to sign it.
“The Tinley Park Park District has the full support of the General Assembly,” Hastings said.
“We figured out how to get this massive space done,” he said nodding toward the water park. “Look at all the parks in Tinley Park … They know what they’re doing.”
Passed by the Illinois General Assembly in May, House Bill 3743 it would turn over the site of the former Tinley Park Mental Health Center to the Tinley Park Park District.
The state has also committed $15 million for environmental cleanup of the long-vacant property.
HB 3743 would sell the land to the Park District for $1, saving Tinley Park taxpayers over $4.5 million to purchase the site, which the Village of Tinley Park had previously offered.
The bill prohibits any form of gaming at the site, supporting the feedback of residents.
Joining Hastings and the Park District Board of Commissioners at the press conference today were State Reps. Robert Rita, Debbie Meyers-Martin, and Justin Slaughter, as well as representatives of the Cook County Building Trades Council, Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sierra Club, Illinois Environmental Council, South Suburban Special Recreation Association, Lincolnway Special Recreation Association, Tinley Park Bulldogs, Moraine Valley Community College, local youth organizations, south suburban school boards, and south suburban area park districts.
Plans laid out by the park district in November include a playground and sports facilities fully accessible for people living with special needs, multipurpose athletic fields, a domed sports complex with a full-size soccer field, a stadium with a track, a splash pad, concession stands, spectator stands, lighting, ample parking, as well as a pond, picnic areas and open green space.
Since the plan was released to the public, it has gained widespread community support and private developer interest.
Shawn Roby, executive director of the park district, said there are no cost estimates for the recreation facilities when the construction rolls around.
“The cost of this is going to be decided as we work with the stake holders, to be honest with you. We need to spend some time. When we unleashed this to the public in November, we were getting phone calls. ‘Hey, what about an indoor swimming platform? Ice rinks?’ So, this still needs some work as we move forward,” Roby said.
“Private-public sponsorships are going to have to be discussed now as we move forward with the development of all 280 acres or something,” Roby added.
Lisa O’Donovan, Park District Board Commissioner and Chair of a new committee being established to oversee the project, said the district is “excited and encouraged.”
“The vision for the site developed by our Board of Commissioners will benefit Tinley Park residents, schools and community organizations, and our plan will create new opportunities for the entire southland region to travel to and enjoy Tinley Park,” she said.
“I’m very excited about the future of the Tinley Park-Park District. They are an excellent fiduciary to demolish the Tinley Park Mental Health Center and redevelop it into a first- class recreation facility,” Hastings said.
The village has not been supportive of the park district’s efforts to secure the land, and that was mentioned by several speakers.
“There are a lot of misrepresentations and falsehoods that have been made by the Village of Tinley Park regarding this project. I hope those misrepresentations never come to light for the best interest of the residents, and for those who made them. Further, I hope that the Village of Tinley Park will become a non-combative and participative partner,” Hastings said.
Rita said the show of support makes him “proud to represent Tinley Park and the entire Southland region.”
Hastings noted that the park district “helps out kids” and “the village chose to not participate.”
“Stop pointing fingers and focus on helping people,” Hastings added.
John Curran, 69, former director of the park district, said he is impressed by the “fantastic” plan.
“We always wanted to build a sports complex to serve not only our town but the south suburban area,” said Curran, who retired six years ago.
Before the news conference, park board president Marie Ryan said “come on, Gov. Pritzker, let’s go.”
“I couldn’t be more excited. We’ve been waiting a long time for this to happen,” said Ryan, board president for 20 years.
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