Recently announced grant availability is pushing the Park District of Forest Park to make plans for a potential Roos expansion sooner rather than later. 

The Roos Recreation Center was completed in May 2018, and an expansion has been a possibility since then. In fact, according to park district Executive Director Jackie Iovinelli, the original plans for the Roos included the addition that is now being considered, but budgetary constraints limited the scope of the project at the time.

Now, however, the Illinois Department of Resources has opened Park and Recreational Facility Construction Program (PARC) grant applications, and the park district is considering applying for one for the Roos expansion. The Roos project neatly fits the requirements for the grant, which is awarded for brick and mortar projects, including expansion of buildings and facilities for recreation purposes.

One of the main reasons for the expansion is to better serve the camp programs at the park, including the before and after school and the summer day programs offered to school aged children. The building currently used for this purpose – Building 4 – is old and fairly rundown, and the program has been growing and expanding, creating a need for a larger space.

However, according to Iovinelli at a Dec. 19 park district board meeting, expanding or renovating Building 4 isn’t possible.

“Bringing [Building 4] up to code would mean tearing it down,” she said. Thus, the park district began looking at the expansion of the Roos as the most feasible option for camp growth.

However, the Roos expansion would be a “multipurpose use facility,” meaning that although it would be used for the camp programs during before and after school hours and when summer camp is in session, it could be used for other purposes at other times. 

The 10,000 square foot addition, which would be added to the north side of the building, would provide 3,000 square feet of program space, broken down into three rooms with walls that could be removed so the area could be used in different ways and for different events. It would include dedicated bathrooms, storage, and an entrance to the gym. The outdoor playground currently in that space would be relocated. Building 4 is 1,000 square feet, so space for camp programs would triple with the Roos expansion.

Andrew Doss, manager of the fitness center, said the expansion would also allow the fitness component of the Roos more space. With the Roos fitness center bursting at the seams when the gym is in use, sometimes members have to bring free weights into the lobby to work out.

Doss said that the park district never anticipated the volume of memberships that have been requested. “It’s a good problem to have,” he said, “but we need more space for our members.”

Iovinelli said she’d love to offer daytime classes for parents and tots, including tot fitness, since there is a large number of young families in town. “We want to cater to these families,” she said. “We are looking for opportunities to keep them in the village.”

But Cathleen McDermott, park district vice-president, had concerns about building on what’s currently green space and the financial obligation this would require for the district.

“We don’t want buildings on top of themselves,” said McDermott. “What about open space?” Regarding finances, she worried that the park’s contribution to the project, since the grant would not cover the entire expansion, might be better spent elsewhere. “We need to be smart about where we spend money,” she said.

Frank Parisi, Roos Center architect from Williams Architects, said that when PARC grants are announced, it’s a good idea to jump at the opportunity, because sometimes the state goes years before making them available. He added that there will probably be another set of PARC grants available in about a year, but there are no guarantees.

The board decided to revisit the issue after Christmas in a special meeting, but time is short because the grant application is due by Jan. 21.