Alderman Gardiner seeking input on possible artificial sports field at Jefferson Park along Lawrence Ave.
by BRIAN NADIG
A $3 million artificial sports field is being considered for Jefferson Memorial Park, 4822 N. Long Ave., according to Alderman James Gardiner (45th).
“I’m just gathering feedback,” Gardiner said, adding that the proposal is in its early stages. He plans to discuss the idea this month with community groups.
“I’ve seen many of these fields in parks in other areas of the city. I believe the Northwest Side is just as deserving. … The parks are the treasures of our community,” Gardiner said.
The field would be installed along the south end of the park next to the tennis courts on Lawrence Avenue and could be used for football, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, softball and possibly for other sports, Gardiner said. The park’s existing baseball diamonds (sand) would have to be removed, but the artificial surface would be incorporated into new baseball and softball fields, he said.
The artificial playing surface would include a underground drainage system.
Funding for the project would come from the Jefferson and Portage Park tax increment financing districts, both of which expire at the end of 2022. TIF regulations allow for funds from one district to be transferred to an adjacent district.
Gardiner said that he wants to make sure the funds are spent on local infrastructure improvements prior to the expiration of the districts, at which time unspent funds would be redistributed to taxing bodies. The two districts, which were created in 1998, were set to expire this year but were extended for one year, Gardiner said.
TIF districts allow tax funds to be set aside for economic development purposes within their designated boundaries. One of their purposes is to help rejuvenate blighted areas, but critics argue that the rules for creating TIF districts have allowed them to be implemented in wealthier communities.
Some schools on the Far Northwest Side, including Taft and Schurz high schools and Sauganash School, have artificial playing surfaces.