WESTMONT – The Westmont Park District knows that applying for grants from the Department of Natural Resources is a highly competitive process.
In 2009, Westmont was on the cusp of receiving a $2.5 million Park and Recreational Facility Construction Act grant, but it’s proposal for a community and arts center in Ty Warner Park was eventually declined.
“We were told by the Department of Natural Resources that our project was well received in 2009,” Westmont Park District Director Bob Fleck said during a Westmont Village Board meeting Thursday. “But it was apparently not good enough.
“This time around, we are putting in that extra effort – going the extra mile – to get the word out and build community support for this project. Without a PARC grant, we will not break ground on this project.”
While PARC grants are not part of the state’s annual budget, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn announced during January’s Illinois Association of Park Districts State Conference that $25 million will be dispersed to help park and forest preserve districts build brick and mortar recreation projects.
Like the previous round of PARC grants, several districts are expected to compete for only a handful of grants. The village and the Westmont Park District intend to again submit a proposal for a 10,000 foot rec center in Ty Warner Park.
Situated on the north side of Ty Warner Park, the center would be a multifunctional space that serves individuals from “infancy to elderly,” said Westmont Park District Assistant Superintendent of Recreation Stephen Golembiewski.
“This building would open a lot of doors for a lot of great programs,” Golembiewski said. “It would not only be used daily by the park district, but also by the Westmont schools, clubs, businesses and organizations.”
The center’s layout includes an 800-square-foot early childhood and multi-use classroom, a 1,200-foot dance studio, a performance stage, an outdoor terrace, a full-service kitchen and three multi-purpose rooms that could be used for everything from business luncheons to wedding receptions, Golembiewski said.
But the rec center’s most attractice selling point is the total cost, which would have no impact to the existing tax base, according to Fleck. If Westmont was awarded the PARC grant, 75 percent of the cost – about $2.475 million – would be covered by the grant and a match program by the state.
The remaining $825,000 bill would be split between a $600,000 Westmont Park District nonreferendum bond and $225,000 from the park district’s general operating fund.
The rec center project – which has been more than a decade in the making – garners the full support of the Westmont Village board, local school districts, service clubs and state officials, including state Sen. Kirk Dillard and state Rep. Patricia Bellock.
Community leaders are now trying to generate support from individuals, something it lacked in 2009, according to Fleck and Mayor Ron Gunter.
“This is something that would serve the entire community and we hope that Westmont can get its share of this money,” Gunter said. “One of the requirements from the Department of Natural Resources is that you reach out and have support from the entire community.”
Residents can show their support for the rec center project by filling out a survey at www.wpdsurvey.org. The online questionnaire will be live through March 5. Residents are also welcome to attend a rec center presentation at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Westmont Park District, 55 E. Richmond St.
The Westmont Park District has until March 10 to submit a final grant proposal to the Department of Natural Resources. Official word on PARC grant recipients is not expected until 2015.