Elevate Elmhurst Parks

Elevate Elmhurst Parks is a collaborative community-wide effort to define Elmhurst Park District priorities and guide future planning efforts. In 2023, the District engaged the community in a comprehensive and strategic planning initiative seeking to update the District’s previous plan and guide decision-making for the next 5 years. The final Elevate Elmhurst Parks plan was approved at the February 26, 2024 Park Board meeting.

Recognizing the importance of diverse perspectives, the District established an Elevate Advisory Committee comprising nearly 20 members of the community. Representing a wide array of community organizations, local businesses, and demographics, this committee diligently reviewed the community’s priorities and proposed plans, offering invaluable feedback to both the Park Board and staff. Subsequently, new Wagner Community Center plans were revised based on their insights and recommendations. This collaborative effort underscores the District's commitment to inclusivity and responsiveness, ensuring that the proposed initiatives align closely with the needs and aspirations of the community.

The Plan consists of the Plan document (pages 1-22) and Appendices. It incorporates broad priorities, goals, objectives, and specific tactics for comprehensive planning (e.g., physical asset and program improvements) and strategic planning (e.g., internal operations, communication, and financial improvements). 

The six priorities of the Elevate Elmhurst Parks Plan, a direct result of community feedback, are invigorated parks, vibrant facilities, dynamic offerings, engaged community, stronger finances, and thriving culture.

The Elevate Elmhurst Parks planning process emphasized community engagement as the cornerstone to creating a plan to serve the community’s expressed interests and needs.  

In three different phases, residents participated in numerous surveys, open houses, interactive online tools and discussion groups, and identified their priorities for the Park District’s future, including new or improved facilities, parks, and programming. 

Through the various feedback opportunities, resident identified their highest priority needs as improving and upgrading facilities, expanding indoor and outdoor recreational amenities, and adding more permanent park restrooms.

Many of the Park District’s indoor facilities rated low based on age, condition, space constraints and functionality on an independent architectural firm assessment. Community feedback also reflected the need for new recreational spaces including: indoor running/walking track, indoor gymnasium (with basketball, volleyball, pickleball courts), indoor turf space and outdoor bandshell/amphitheater.

Residents also highlighted the need for increased programming to reduce the number of registrants on waitlists.

To address the greatest needs for the most people, Park District has identified these projects:

  • New Wagner Community Center
    • Free walking track
    • Gymnasium with hard courts for pickleball, basketball, volleyball
    • Multi-sport artificial turf field
    • Larger gymnastics space
    • Larger dance spaces
    • Dedicated early childhood programming spaces with separate entrance
    • Indoor play area
    • Larger multi-purpose rooms
  • Year-round heated restroom buildings
    • Crestview Park
    • Eldridge Park
    • Prairie Path
  • Wilder Park Bandshell with year-round heated restrooms
  • Replace grass athletic field at Berens Park with artificial turf

Indoor sports and recreation space remains a high priority for the community and the District’s building spaces do not align with community program needs and require upgrading due to their age, condition, functionality, and space constraints. Based on an independent assessment, architects identified many building deficiencies, space constraints, and significant aging for the nearly 70-year-old Wagner Community Center.

Additionally, 5,610 people remained on a program waitlist in 2022. The primary reason for high waitlists is the lack of facility space to accommodate the demand. While staff have made a demonstrated effort to accommodate this demand, in many cases, facility constraints prevent staff from increasing program capacity.

The redevelopment of the aging Wagner Community Center will reduce waitlists and address facility deficiencies. 

The proposed new Wagner Community Center is 127,250 square feet (current Wagner Community Center is 32,000 square feet). 

Wagner Community Center concepts can be viewed here. The proposed facility includes an indoor walking track, courts/gymnasium space for pickleball, basketball, volleyball and other sports, and a multi-sport artificial turf field. It also includes larger gymnastics and dance spaces, expanded and dedicated early childhood programming spaces, an indoor play area, and larger multi-purpose rooms to reduce program waitlists and for community meetings.

The proposed new Wagner Community Center indoor turf space is 60 yards by 40 yards, which is the size of a U9 level soccer field. The turf space is 24,700 square feet.

The proposed new Wagner Community Center free indoor track is a little less than 1/8 of a mile, which is approximately 8.6 laps per mile.

The proposed new Wagner Community Center gymnasium is 27,285 square feet with 4 regulation high school basketball courts/2 regulation standard National Basketball Association (NBA) courts, 12 pickleball courts, or 4 practice/2 competition volleyball courts. 

The Wagner Community Center is nearly 70 years old and was designed to be an elementary school. The District purchased the building and adjacent properties totaling seven acres from MacCormac College in 2003 for $3 million. The District renovated the building, including adding a gymnastics facility in January 2004. 

Previous to the District’s ownership, the building was originally Cornille Grade School in School District #3 in Bensenville. In the 1970s it became part of Elmhurst School District 205 but was then sold in 1982 to MacCormac College. 

To address community feedback that placed a high priority on specific outdoor amenities for parks and trails, the Park District is proposing:

  • Construction of a Wilder Park Bandshell with Year-round heated restrooms
  • Year-round heated restroom buildings at Crestview Park, Eldridge Park and one along the Prairie Path
  • Artificial turf at an existing field in Berens Park

The benefits of the proposed projects include:

  • Improve quality of life
  • Protect property values
  • Provide welcoming, community gathering spaces
  • Remove and replace decades-old building with upgraded more functional and welcoming spaces
  • Enhance the safety and security of recreation facilities 
  • Offer more year-round sports and recreation opportunities for all ages
  • Reduce waitlists and meet high-demand and unmet programming needs and interests
  • Lessen the need for residents to leave Elmhurst for sports and recreation activities 
  • Facilitate relationships and increase offerings with local athletic groups

The total estimate for the projects (adjusted for 2026 pricing) is $89 million.

  • New Wagner Community Center ($84,950,000)
  • Wilder Park Bandshell with Year-round Heated Restrooms ($2,500,000)
  • Crestview Park Year-round Heated Restroom Building ($500,000)
  • Eldridge Park Year-round Heated Restroom Building ($500,000)
  • Prairie Path Year-round Heated Restroom Building ($500,000)
  • Artificial Turf at Existing Field in Berens Park ($1,000,000)

It is important to note that the Elmhurst Park District has not yet decided whether to hold a referendum. The first step is to hold community open houses (in late April and early May) and conduct a voter survey (in May) to confirm residents’ needs and determine the public’s willingness to fund projects if necessary.

However, available funds will not cover the full cost of the projects, so Park District leadership is identifying possible funding options, which include capital funds, grants, donations, and a referendum to issue public bonds. 

Elmhurst Park District has consistently operated in a fiscally responsible manner and has been recognized with awards for its financial stewardship. With a property tax rate of only a nickel of every dollar, the District has one of the lowest tax rates in DuPage County.

The Park District does have a capital fund for major repairs, replacements, or installations, but available funds will not cover the full cost of the proposed projects, requiring leadership to identify additional sources of funds.

With a nickel from every dollar of property taxes, the Elmhurst Park District operates and maintains 30 parks, 19 facilities and 458 acres of open land. This is one of the lowest rates compared to other DuPage County park districts, including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream, and Lombard.

The Park District property tax levy is similar to that of the Elmhurst Public Library.

It is important to note that the Elmhurst Park District has not yet decided whether to pursue a referendum.

However, should a referendum be placed on the November ballot, the tax impact would be approximately $6 a week ($325 a year) on a home valued at $500,000. View a full tax impact table >>

The increase would not be permanent. The Park District would be looking to purchase 25-year bonds, similar to when a homeowner takes out a mortgage. 

We continue operating at our current level with extensive wait lists and limited indoor programming space. The District would need to continue to invest money into a nearly 70-year-old facility that has space constraints, significant aging, and building deficiencies. It will also limit our ability to pay for and address other park and facility needs and priorities identified in the Elevate Elmhurst Parks Plan. 

In 1971, voters approved a $3.9 million bond referendum for land acquisition and development. The majority of the Park District’s present land was purchased during this time, along with new park development.

During the District’s last strategic and comprehensive planning process (Vision 2020), 18 goals organized into six strategic themes were identified. Using a strategic work plan that outlined specific tactics, staff planned, tracked and reported on implementation progress. 

Since 2017, the District has accomplished nearly all the goals and tactics from Vision 2020, except for constructing new indoor recreation and sports spaces due to fiscal constraints. These accomplishments include:

  • Park renovations at multiple parks, including Glos, Ben Allison, and Eldridge Parks
  • Acquired more open space and developed new parks at Centennial and Pick Parks (formally park deserts)
  • Facility enhancements, including the sale of the former senior center, The Abbey, and the opening of the new Mary E. Kies Recreation Center
  • Amenity upgrades, including Dog Park planning (construction in 2024) and baseball field renovations
  • Expanded offerings, including community events, camps, weekend/evening options
  • Transitioned to new registration software (ActiveNet)

In early May, the survey was distributed to a randomly selected sample of Elmhurst Park District registered voters to collect a return rate that accurately represents all Park District registered voters.

Visit our contact page to reach out with questions and comments.