Evanston breaks ground on new Robert Crown Community Center project


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

City officials and kids from Evanston Summer Camps shovel dirt at the Robert Crown Community Center groundbreaking ceremony. The complete renovation of the center is scheduled to finish in fall 2019.

Elizabeth Byrne, Summer Editor

Evanston residents and city officials gathered Friday for a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction for the new Robert Crown Community Center.

The ceremony, which was held on the fields of the Robert Crown Community Center, featured speeches from Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty, parks, recreation and community service director Lawrence Hemingway and Ald. Donald Wilson (4th). Members from Friends of Robert Crown, a group dedicated to fundraising for the project, and kids from Evanston Summer Camps also participated in the ceremony.

Hemingway, who served as the emcee for the event, said his department was looking forward to providing new recreational opportunities at the new center for both young and old residents.

“This new facility will provide residents and visitors with the opportunity to come and socialize, mingle and play,” Hemingway said. “We are excited to be able to provide new programming and services that will meet the community needs and demands,”

The new Robert Crown Community Center plans to have two full sheet ice rinks, turf fields, a daycare center and a branch of the Evanston Public Library. The project is estimated to cost a total of $53 million, with Friends of Robert Crown projected to contribute $15 million to the project. The new center is scheduled to open fall 2019.

Daniel Stein, president of the Friends of Robert Crown group, spoke during the ceremony and said that the group has already raised $11.5 million of their $15 million goal. Stein said he’s confident the group will reach its goal.

Hagerty said the new Robert Crown Community center is “a lot more than a building.” The project exists because of the commitment from people in the Evanston community, he added

“I hope we will not forget what the long-term investment is in this community, which is in all the community members,” Hagerty said. “Just the fact that we got here today is incredible.”

Hagerty added that the project is a “real community partnership” because of the collaboration between the city and the Friends of Robert Crown and the donors to the project.

Wilson brought his own shovel to the groundbreaking ceremony because it is something he has used to “put a little mark” in the Evanston community, he said.

“This is a shovel in my life that’s planted trees, it’s scooped cement, it’s been part of my life,” Wilson said. “It’s also an acknowledgement that my work is just a tiny bit of this puzzle that got us to where we are today.”

Wilson added that the project has brought members of the Evanston community together in a way he hasn’t seen before. He said the “much loved” building will be “revitalized to serve the community in new and exciting ways.”

He said he’s excited to see what the future holds for the community space.

“We’ve turned this vision into a future space where hard works and dreams can be realized,” Wilson said. “I’m looking forward to providing the space to allow these wonderful things to happen over the course of the next several generations.”

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