Friends Park estimates soar
Snow-covered Friends Park may need big money to be rebuilt. |Irv Leavitt~Sun-Times Media.
Updated: February 22, 2013 7:19PM
GLENCOE — New Friends Park designs have the “wow factor” and increased handicapped accessibility Glencoe Park District commissioners are after.
They’re also estimated to cost more than twice as much as first estimated.
The district announced a tentative budget of $160,000 to $180,000 prior to discussing the first – panned – concepts from park planner RGC Design in early December. Weeks later, more appreciated schemes of the Palatine firm are estimated to cost between $428,000 and $438,000. The estimates don’t include 10 percent contingency fees.
About half the cost increase can be attributed to about $100,000 more in rubbery surfaces to accommodate physically-challenged children, a key requirement of audience members at a Dec. 3 session. The amount of such surfaces has risen from about 15 percent of the play area in earlier designs to about 85 percent.
Much of the rest, Board President Max Retsky said last week, is the result of expectations of economy that may have been unrealistic.
“I don’t know how you expect to build a playground for about the same amount you did” in 1995, the last time the district rebuilt its signature park at Vernon Avenue and Tudor Court.
One of the first things the district will discuss at its 7 p.m. Jan. 7 Special Projects and Facilities Committee public meeting is whether such an expenditure can be shouldered without crimping plans throughout the district.
In 1995, much of the cost was covered by donations, but commissioners say that’s unlikely this time. The commissioners feel compelled to get the park in shape in time for seasonal use, and there isn’t enough time to mount a campaign, they say.
“There’s no reason we couldn’t do fundraising after the fact,” Commissioner Andre Lerman said hopefully at a Dec. 17 committee meeting.
“It’s really hard to raise money when something’s done,” Commissioner Hilary Lee said. “It’s not going to happen.”
The new apparatus will replace 1995 pieces that Commissioner Trent Cornell said had long outlasted their expected life.
Three major wooden pieces, all rotting, were taken down this fall, but not at the same time. The largest, left after two others were razed, had to be removed Oct. 17 after a boy – Retsky’s son – fell through it, sustaining minor injuries.
Replacements will be made of composite materials, which Cornell said would be expected to last at least 15 years.
Parks officials may have underestimated the time it takes to get the job done as well as the cost to do it. Told at the Dec. 17 session by parks supervisor Rick Bold that they need to allow eight to 12 weeks for apparatus to arrive after ordering, commissioners said the park may remain largely empty until July or later, instead of May or June, as indicated earlier.
The commissioners have now seen two new concepts, one called “The Globe,” a design inspired by William Shakespeare’s circular theater, and intended as a fit with Writers’ Theatre, to the east. The other, called “The Train,” is a sort of mini-Glencoe, including a boat-shaped apparatus on the south, a handicap-accessible stationary train, and apparatus with building-like looks.
The Train was the favorite of the commissioners, partly because apparatus designed to mimic a 16th-century English theater seemed too esoteric for four-year-olds to appreciate.
“Kids don’t care about a theater,” Lee said.
“Kids don’t care about a theme,” Retsky said. “They care about equipment.”
A previous board, she added “spent an awful lot of money on the Central School park, and the kids hate it.
“For me, we’re missing a huge boat, no pun intended, if we put together an architectural park and don’t figure out what kids want to play on.”
The Train concept took some knocks, too.
“Kids aren’t going to recognize what the Glencoe State Bank was 80 years ago,” said Steve Gaines, slated for a 2013 commissioner’s seat by the Glencoe Caucus.
Cornell, committee chairman, said some money could be saved by buying stock apparatus instead of custom pieces that hew closely to a theme. Commissioner Bob Kimble suggested trying to cut down on the amount of handicap-friendly surface without making it less accessible.
The train apparatus allows access by a wheelchair, and can include a second-level that allows paraplegics to hoist themselves up, Interim Executive Director Steve Nagle said.
Gaines made a remark that the project is likely to cost $750,000, including a 50 percent overrun. Cornell replied that guided by Nagle, last year’s Takiff Center roof repair had come in on budget, as has the just-finished beach staircase repair, at $120,000.
“Hopefully, this will make it three for three,” he said.
Commissioners agreed to back The Train concept, and come to a clearer idea about what can be afforded within it at the Jan. 7 Takiff Center session, 999 Green Bay Road.
Mockups will be seen throughout the village, including at the Winter Carnival, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Watts Ice Center, 305 Randolph St.
Commissioners say they want input, especially from families, about what’s best for the park, before they approve it, as early as their Feb. 19 regular Board meeting.