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Residents offer input on upcoming changes at racquet club

About a dozen residents attended the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District board meeting on Tuesday, June 6, to offer their thoughts on how best to update the H-F Racquet & Fitness Club. It was the second meeting on the topic.

Commissioners asked for ideas that can help formulate the park district’s approaches for a Park and Recreational Facilities Construction grant through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The grant would cover 75% of any improvements. The stipulation is the money must be used for active recreation uses, not just cosmetic updates. H-F Park District is working with racquet club spaces developed decades ago for specific uses and is now trying to convert those to address today’s needs.

Suggestions included more space for teens and adults to play basketball or volleyball. The H-F Sports Complex, a wing at James Hart School built in 2002, offers both basketball and volleyball, but residents felt the park district should do more to make spaces available for teen sports.

One mom asked for the park district to introduce a boxing program for teens.

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Dave Carvalho of Flossmoor asked commissioners to look for ways to involve teens. He said the plan as presented puts a focus on little kids and adults and seniors. 

“There’s got to be more things for teenagers and young men to do,” he said, noting Flossmoor Community Church opened court space on its parking lot.

After about 45 minutes of discussion following a presentation, Brent Bachus, park board president, thanked participants for their suggestions. He said staff would go back to the drawing board to see if it could better accommodate the suggestions. 

H-F’s request for $2 million is due June 15. Executive Director Debbie Kopas said she didn’t expect the park board would learn if it will be awarded grant funding for six to 12 months. Should it get a grant, the park district would have two years to complete any work.

The racquet club, at 2920 W. 183rd St. in Homewood, has several spaces that are now vacant or can be converted for other uses. The park board learned of the grant opportunity in mid-May and began working with Wight Co. on redesigning spaces. 

Part of the building is rented to Conroy Orthopedics & Sports Physical Therapy. The business recently relocated to the front of the building, and space it vacated is currently being used for summer camp activities.

One plan calls for moving staff offices into space Conroy vacated, so that the current staff office space can be converted for a new multi-purpose room and family lockers. Another option calls for converting the pro shop and nursery into an indoor play environment, with a special space for kids with sensory restrictions, and a multi-purpose room. In addition to regular open play hours, the space could be rented for parties.

The plan calls for converting two of the lower level racquetball courts for sports performance or functional fitness uses. It would require raising the floor, but staff believes the space would get more use. The courts now are used for barre exercises and TRX training, but those programs would be relocated to a new multipurpose room.

Several audience members wanted to see H-F Park District offer amenities they find at Tinley Park and Orland Park park district facilities where court time is available. Those are newer facilities compared to the H-F Racquet & Fitness Center that was built in 1973 as a tennis club with a pool added in 1986 and a fitness center and a walking track added in 1994. 

Parks Commissioner Steve Johnson pointed out that the park board will need to budget not just for the 25% matching grant of approximately $625,000, but also it should look at racquet club updates for HVAC and locker room improvements.

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