Park District Ducks Out Of Latin School Soccer Fight

May 15, 2008

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A group of parks advocates has likely won a victory against the Chicago Park District. It's over the district's plan to lease a soccer field to a private school. A tentative legal agreement could erase months-worth of acrimony, but the half-finished soccer field could still be a bone of contention.

A group called Protect Our Parks had filed suit against the Chicago Park District. Protect our Parks had two beefs: first, it didn't want acres of grass in Lincoln Park to turn into an artificial turf soccer field and, second, the group hated how the project started. The private Latin School was to pay for the new field in exchange for privileged access during soccer season.

Protect Our Parks President Thomas Tresser said the district made the deal by avoiding public meetings.

TRESSING: We also ask there are no secret deals to give away our parkland to anybody for any purpose. No diminuation, no leasing, no slicing, no dicing.

Today, the Chicago Park District is expected to break its deal with the Latin School. The district will keep the half-finished soccer field, but return the Latin School's money. But Park District Board President Gery Chico says Chicago children are flocking to soccer and they need fields, so, the district will press on.

CHICO: It's our desire, at this point to finish the construction of the soccer field. We feel that's the most responsible public action to take here.

Chico says the district will have the Chicago Plan Commission review the Lincoln Park proposal.

CHICO: You have to give notice to the adjoining landowners. We'll see how big of a group that is, and then the superintendent will move with this, post-haste.

The Chicago Park District hopes to have kids hit the field in Lincoln Park by fall. One parks group says that leaves them plenty of time to prepare a new lawsuit.