Photo by Joe Boyle
The new state-of-art concession stand is located at the center of the new softball fields at Centennial Park in Oak Lawn.
By Joe Boyle
When the fences that were installed around the perimeter of Centennial Park in Oak Lawn were taken down a couple of weeks ago, nearby residents could see firsthand the nearly completed renovation of the project.
The most noticeable difference are the four new softball fields that have been completed with a new central concession stand at Centennial Park, 9300 S. Nashville Ave. New bathroom facilities are also featured. The state-of the-art fields and concession stand were open at the end of the May, which Oak Lawn Park District officials predicted would occur when the project began a year ago. However, not everyone was aware of the changes until the temporary fences were removed.
The softball diamonds no longer face in the same direction as the old fields once did. The fields have new fences that stretch along each foul line along with spacious dugouts.
“The old fields were kind of dangerous,” said Maddie Kelly, executive director of the Oak Lawn Park District. “They were all facing each other and balls were being hit onto the other fields where games were being played. Players could be hit by balls hit from games played at the other fields.”
All four diamonds were being used last Thursday night by adult softball leagues. Before the games began at 6:30 p.m., Judy Fetchko set up two menu displays on either side of the concession stand to remind players and fans that they can purchase food and drinks.
“We are still working out some things,” Fetchko said. “But the players seem to really like it. They have come up and told us.”
Fetchko said that the concession stand is only open while the games are played. During the week, that often means the stand opens at 6:30 and closes no later than 10:30 p.m.
“There are some things we need to look at,” Fetchko added. “We have to work on the amount of supplies we need and how many people will come out. We are getting a better idea on what supplies we need. With the fences down, more people are coming by. We’re seeing more people coming from the volleyball courts. Next year we will have it down.”
This completes the first phase of the project. The renovation is the result of a $400,000 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant, and an $80,000 Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) grant.
“We applied for a grant a few years ago,” Kelly said. “But we had to wait for a few years because the grant would not pay for all the improvements. We had to wait to come up with the rest of the money.”
Along with the new fields and concession stand, LED lighting is featured throughout the park, including the sand volleyball courts near 93rd and Oak Park Avenue and the inline hockey rink. New walking and jogging paths have also been installed around the park.
“The number one thing that residents want is better walking paths,” Kelly said when the project began. “The old walking paths were a little rudimentary.”
The sand volleyball court will receive an additional third court along with new fencing, curbing, accessible pathways, and benches. Exercise stations will be added, the soccer field will be re-graded to increase storm-water retention, and an informational native tree area will be planted on the east end.
A disc golf practice area with two practice holes and a practice throw area will be added adjacent to the basketball court, and two bean bag courts will be added near the existing picnic shelter adjacent to the ballfields.
The playground area has seen major improvements during the past year, including new swings and a zip line.
Improvements have also occurred to the Centennial Park swimming pool, which also has a splash pad and new state-of the-art playground equipment nearby.
The second phase of the project is nearly complete, according to Tom Hartwig, superintendent of Special Facilities and manager of the Oak Lawn Pavilion, which is located near Centennial Park at 9401 S. Oak Park Ave.
“The only major areas left to be completed are restoration and landscaping of the park along with a few areas that do need to be addressed before final completion,” Hartwig said. “At this time, we do not have a final completion date from the contractor. We have worked with the contractor to gain access to vital areas of the park so that the adult softball leagues could start on May 20 even though phase one was not finished. The east end of the park remains closed as work continues on landscaping and restoration. We are happy to announce that the majority of the construction fence was removed by the contractor and people have started to enjoy the walking paths and sand volleyball courts.”
The balance of the project is being funded by the Oak Lawn Park District’s Capital Projects fund. No debt or new taxes are being used for the project, according to the park district.