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By Nona Tepper
Construction is nearly complete at the soon-to-be-unveiled Roos Recreation Center, as Park District of Forest Park staff gear up for the facility's grand opening on May 26.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day, a magician, face painter and associates from Kind Bar and Honest Tea will be on hand to entertain and offer promotional items to community members interested in a first look at their new recreation facility, which has been under construction for nearly a year.
Representatives from Chicago-based Hot Shots Sports will also be present to talk about classes they will offer in the gymnasium. Larry Piekarz, park district executive director, said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (4th) and other legislators were also trying to attend the grand opening.
Piekarz said partnering with legislators was instrumental in getting the nearly $6 million center built. He said construction of Roos came in almost $100,000 under budget.
"It's been a struggle, but we're trying to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars," he said, noting that the park district secured several state and federal grants totaling approximately $4.1 million to get the new facility built.
Piekarz is using the extra funds to resurface the gravel path near the sensory garden at the corner of the Circle Avenue Bridge with concrete. The sensory garden includes herbs that people can taste and smell and a section to attract butterflies.
Staff are also still waiting on signs for the rooms — which will be produced by Oak Park-based "It's A Sign" — and a "Welcome" mural to be painted above an old, 1943 Roos chest situated at the entrance of the building, between two columns from the old Roos Cedar Chest Factory. Built in 1918, the Roos Factory once employed 400 people and was the largest employer in town. The new recreation facility replaced the old factory.
The park district has hired 12 new part-time employees to staff the center, about 10 of whom are from Forest Park, said Andrew Doss, athletic supervisor. Doss said all employees will be trained and certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) this week.
"Everything's done; we've just got a couple punch list things we're doing," Piekarz said. "It's all pretty basic stuff."