Group wants basketball court removed


by BRIAN NADIG

The outdoor basketball court at Jefferson Park would be removed under a plan to replace it with an artificial soccer field that was approved by the Jefferson Park Advisory Council on Dec. 12.

The council discussed the possibility moving the court elsewhere in the park or having a multipurpose field for both soccer and basketball but decided against those options. The basketball rims were restored on the court’s two backboards in the fall of 2011 after they were removed 15 years ago due to concerns about late-night noise and drug and gang activity at the park, 4822 N. Long Ave.

It is believed that residents who are upset about the rims being restored may have been responsible for removing them on two occasions in the past 8 months, and other parks have had similar problems with missing rims, according to residents at the meeting. Currently only one rim is up on the court, and three months ago a sign was posted stating that the court cannot be used after 8 p.m.

Several council members noted that the park has an indoor basketball court that occasionally is available for open play. The indoor gymnasium is used for activities such as gymnastics throughout the day.

Alderman John Arena (45th) said after the meeting that he has not seen plans for the artificial soccer field and that the advisory council should seek additional community input on the proposal and its effect on outdoor basketball at the park. “I’ve had no complaints,” Arena said of the outdoor court. “Kids need things to do.”

A community survey conducted by Arena showed strong support for the restoration of the outdoor rims at both Jefferson Park and Wilson Park, 4630 N. Milwaukee Ave. The rims at Wilson were restored at the same time as Jefferson Park.

The council is planning to seek a grant to pay for the artificial soccer field, which would be leased to leagues for practices, and to look into other funding sources, including the Jefferson Park Tax Increment Financing District. The field would be large enough to accommodate six-on-six play for adults.

A net or fence would have to be installed along the east end of the field in order to separate it from the adjoining tennis courts. Some council members said that any barriers around the field should be transparent so that people cannot hide there at night.

In another park matter, Arena has asked the city Department of Transportation to look into installing a crosswalk across Higgins Avenue in front of the park. Last year a woman was fatally struck by a car as she crossed Higgins at Long Avenue, near the park fieldhouse.

One possible location for the crosswalk would be in front of the park’s pool entrance, which is west of the fieldhouse, Arena said. The transportation department does not want the crosswalk installed at Long because it would be too close to the crosswalk at the signalized intersection of Higgins and Milwaukee avenues, Arena said.

The department also is looking into options for creating short-term parking for park patrons around the park, Arena said. The council is recommending that 24 diagonal parking spaces be installed on the west side of Long Avenue, eliminating the 14 parallel parking spaces on the east side of Long.

To create sufficient room for the diagonal parking on Long, a land swap between the city and the Chicago Park District may be required, Arena said.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 9, in the park fieldhouse.


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