Evanston nears final decision on Robert Crown reconstruction

Rachel Janik, Reporter

Evanston city officials are considering proposals for a new Robert Crown recreational center to be built and managed by a private owner because much-needed repairs for the old center would be too costly a burden for the city.

The city is entering the final stages of selecting a proposal from one of several possible offers and is currently considering plans from two groups. Ald. Don Wilson (4th) said that officials are not satisfied with either of the two proposals yet.

“We’re hoping to work with these two,” Wilson said, “to try to get something up to the level we’re looking for.”

The current Robert Crown Community Center and Ice Complex, 1701 Main St., is in need of significant repairs and is due for demolition upon completion of the new building. Gladys Flores, who has worked at the community center for five years, said that the building has problems in the bathrooms and the locker rooms, adding that when it rains, there are leaks everywhere.

“A lot of different things need repairing,” she said. “Actually, really it’s just the entire building that’s got problems.”

Wilson said issues like widespread disrepair were the main reason for constructing a new building. He said the conditions of the facility were dilapidated due to long-term “benign neglect,” adding that the city could not afford to foot the bill for so many issues.

“It’s hard to justify putting money into a building that’s so broken,” he said.

The new center would also add new facilities equipped with two full ice rinks and one smaller ice rink, called “studio ice.”  Wilson said that the city plans to maintain community areas, like a gym and a daycare center, at the center as well.

There have been a few neighborhood grumblings about the new center, which Wilson said he attributes to some misunderstandings. For example, some residents complained about a new center being built over baseball diamonds and other sports fields in the park. Wilson said that Crown Park and the ball fields on the property will remain on the site, but will be “scooted over.”

On the other hand, Flores said she is excited for the new building because it will give community members more opportunities to use the ice rinks, and the facilities will be much more convenient.

Wilson said he hopes the city will be able to meet with the two groups putting forth proposals Monday. His realistic expectation for the project’s end, when residents can “lace up their skates” at a refurbished Robert Crown, is in two and a half years.