The Skokie Park District recently announced that property it once targeted for a major new park on the east side of the village will be used for soccer and cricket next year even though original plans are on hold indefinitely.
The saga over property that the park district planned as Skokie Sports Park East at McCormick Boulevard and Oakton Street has spanned years with many ups and downs along the way.
The Park District leases adjacent Skokie Sports Park, which includes a golf range, miniature golf course and batting facility, from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD). It had been planning a multi-use sports facility on the 17-acre eastern half — waiting out an environmental cleanup of the site that took a few years to complete.
But last year, even as Park District leaders were considering design plans for the new park, the MWRD announced it aimed to use the property for a potential site for a phosphate treatment operation, officials said.
Skokie Park District Executive Director John Ohrlund said he doesn’t know of any change to those plans, but the MWRD is allowing the park district to use the property for now.
“We still know they are likely going to take the property for their treatment purposes eventually,” Ohrlund said. “However, we decided to go ahead and fix it up and smooth out the soils and plant some good seed for soccer and cricket.”
The cost is minimal, Ohrlund said, as the Park District will not move forward to install lights or any of the permanent features planners originally discussed.
“It’s just going to be a grass field pretty much,” he said.
Ohrlund said seed for grass has been planted. The plan is to let it mature and then have the fields ready for soccer and cricket programming by the fall, he said.
In addition to planting grass, the park district will also add some striping, portable toilets and install a cricket pitch, Ohrlund said.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to use this for a few years,” he said. “Who knows how long?”
The MWRD has not provided the Park District with a time line, Ohrlund said, so it is uncertain when the property would no longer be available.
Ohrlund said space for cricket is limited in Skokie, but the demand for cricket and soccer is great. For cricket, many local players travel into the western suburbs to play, he said.
“There are a lot of folks who are interested in cricket in town here,” Ohrlund said.
Park District Superintendent of Parks Mike Rea said the turf is already long and thick and should be ready when programming begins next fall.
Rea said that the new fields will allow the park district to use its other soccer fields a little less throughout the year. The new property will feature four soccer fields with a cricket pitch in the middle for use when soccer is not scheduled, he said.