Elevate Elmhurst Parks Plan highlights need for indoor recreation space

  • Wagner Community Center Elmhurst IL

Elmhurst Park District is always looking for ways to advance its mission of enriching the lives while having fun. Last year, the District engaged the community in Elevate Elmhurst Parks, 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 Park Board meeting.

Through feedback opportunities, including open houses, focus groups, an interactive website and a community needs assessment survey, the community shared its vision for the future of the Park District’s parks, trails, and facilities.

A common thread among the findings was the need for indoor recreation space. Something that did not come as a surprise to District officials.

“Most of the District’s indoor facilities are more than 50 years old,” says Jim Rogers, Executive Director of Elmhurst Park District. “Many of the buildings have been re-purposed from their original, intended use, to offer the community District programming and services.”

Recreational amenities like an indoor running/walking track, indoor gymnasium/courts (basketball/volleyball/pickleball) and indoor turf fields were some of the most essential needs, according to the community. Also, demands for recreational programming are at all-time highs and the District’s registration numbers continue to increase. An additional 500 registrations were completed for winter programs in 2024 as compared to 2023.

However, the District lacks the indoor space to meet these demands as well as the funding.

Another key finding during the process was the community’s prioritization of more permanent restrooms in the parks and along trails. Other park priorities included rectangular fields, pickleball courts, playgrounds and trails.

Since the 2017 approval of the last comprehensive plan, Vision 2020, the District has made significant headway in meeting the changing needs of Elmhurst. Without increasing taxes, a new adult center, the Mary E. Kies Recreation Center, opened its doors in June 2022 and new parks like Centennial Park and Pick Park were developed to address park deserts. Planning was completed for Canine Corner, a dog park to be constructed this year. However, another critical need, additional indoor recreation space, remains unmet due to a lack of funds for such a significant project.

This year, the District will focus on this piece of the puzzle, with the Park Board considering the potential redevelopment of the aging Wagner Community Center. The proposed facility could offer expanded program and facility space along with the possibility of an indoor walking track and pickleball courts. However, the District will need to assess its funding options to meet this community need.

The District is recognized for its financial stewardship, having been awarded the GFOA Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for 15 consecutive years and GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for 17 consecutive years. However, with a property tax rate of only a nickel of every dollar, it has one of the lowest rates compared to other DuPage County park districts, including communities like Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Carol Stream and Lombard.

Elmhurst Park District looks forward to continuing to engage the community as it works to create a vibrant recreational environment for generations to come.