Proposal would bring indoor sports center to Pullman neighborhood

Chicago Tribune (IL), 2014-06-25

June 25 --An indoor sports center, bigger than two football fields and partially funded with federal disaster relief tied to Hurricane Ike, could be headed to Chicago's Pullman neighborhood under a proposal unveiled Wednesday in Chicago City Council .

Groundbreaking on the $15 million , 138,000-square-foot facility, near 103rd Street and Woodlawn , could come as early as September, with the facility to open in September 2015 . If all goes as planned, the facility would also have financial backing from Major League Baseball , an entity tied to National Football League , local corporations and professional athletes who grew up on the city's South Side .

Giving local youth a place to learn and practice sports would be another step in the long-term plan to revitalize Pullman.

Just west of the Bishop Ford Expressway , Pullman Park includes a Wal-Mart , a health club and a production facility for Method cleaning products. There also have been efforts over the past several years to rehab and sell to owner-occupants the row homes that once housed Pullman factory workers. Fifteen of those homes have been sold and Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives Inc. , the community organization leading the redevelopment, recently received $1.5 million from Illinois Attorney General's office to buy and renovate another 20 homes.

The sports facility would be located on a 12-acre parcel donated to Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives several years ago by U.S. Bank . About three-quarters of the facility would have artificial turf fields, with the rest dedicated to sports like basketball and volleyball.

In its application to the state for the federal disaster funds, the community group noted that within a 1.5-mile radius of the facility there were 825 students in public elementary school and 2,847 enrolled in public high schools.

"These (facilities) are all over, but there's no place on the south side that has them," said David Doig , president of Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives.

In addition to the $5 million in federal disaster funds tied to the 2008 hurricane, which must be used by year's end, backers have raised $2 million . They also plan to take advantage of the New Markets Tax Credit Program, which allows people and corporations that make equity investments in projects in low-income areas to receive a credit against their federal income taxes.

"This is a vision I've had for a long time," said Ald. Anthony Beale , 9th, speaking outside City Council chambers shortly after introducing the plan. "And I'm going to continue to raise money, because what I'm trying to do is build this without a mortgage, so we can have the price low to where people can afford to go there where it won't cost so much money. No city money is involved at this particular point."

Doig said backers of the project also have approached Wal-Mart for support and now that the plans have been publicly unveiled, backers will ramp up fundraising efforts. There already have been preliminary talks with MLB representatives, Doig said.

MLB's Urban Youth Academy , designed to offer baseball programs in underserved communities, already facilities in Compton, Calif. , Houston , and New Orleans .

"Not only for Pullman, this means a lot for Roseland , Pullman, Chicago, Illinois , Iowa , Wisconsin , Indiana ," Beale said. "This is a regional draw. And again, this is something that nobody has built before in this region, so we're really excited about having national attention coming in to this facility."

"Ike" recovery funds also were used for road reconstruction in Pullman Park . --


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