Crowd voices strong support for new roller hockey rink at Norwood Park
by BRIAN NADIG
A crowd of about 200 people at a May 30 community meeting expressed overwhelming support for a new roller hockey rink at Norwood Park, 5801 N. Natoma Ave.
“It’s free. Let’s do it for our kids,” Alderman Anthony Napolitano (41st) told a packed room at the park’s senior center. Nearly everyone in the crowd raised their hand when Napolitano asked who supports the project, whose cost is being donated by the Chicago Blackhawks.
In 2017 plans had called for the rink to be installed at Brooks Park, 7100 N Harlem Ave., but those plans were halted in part because it would have required a new drainage system. At Norwood Park, a new drainage system is not required because the rink would be located where there is existing pavement.
Under the plan for Norwood Park, the rink would be located along Natoma in the southwest corner of the park, replacing two of the park’s four tennis courts, an existing smaller rink and a former paved dog run. A newer dog run was installed several years ago along the north side of the park, and the existing roller rink, whose size was cut in half about 5 years ago, is in deteriorating condition.
The new rink would measure 75-feet-by-160-feet, and the Blackhawks would provide an endowment to cover maintenance costs for 5 years in addition to the initial construction expenses, said Chicago Park District project manger Michael Lange.
In addition, the two remaining tennis courts would be resurfaced and include markings for pickleball, a paddle sport that is increasingly popular among seniors, Napolitano said. Plans also call for the existing basketball courts which are located near the tennis courts to remain.
There also are plans to build four new tennis courts across from the park at Taft High School as part of larger plan to install a sports turf there, Napolitano said after the meeting.
In response to concerns from nearby home owners, Napolitano said that the installation of plants or other sound-buffering techniques along the perimeter of the rink would be considered.
Napolitano said that the Blackhawks have agreed to hold clinics for children at the rink and that area residents no longer would have to travel to the suburbs to play in roller hockey leagues. ‘The Blackhawks will come out (and) teach your kids,” he said.
The rink’s surface would consist of interlocking plastic tiles which can accommodate roller and street-shoe hockey, Lange said. The surface cannot be frozen over in the winter for ice hockey, he said.
When the rink is not reserved for leagues or other special events, it would be available for open play, Lange said.
A similar rink has been installed at Kennedy Park, 11320 S. Western Ave.