TINLEY PARK, Ill. - Big plans for a big park were unveiled Tuesday in the southwest suburbs.
The Tinley Park Park District says it’s going to turn the old Tinley Park Mental Health Center into a 90-acre recreational complex.
The announcement comes just days after Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker signed a bill allowing the Tinley Park Park District to buy the 280-acre site owned by the state for a single dollar.
"That land has been vacant here," said Lisa O’Donovan, Tinley Park Park District commissioner. "We need it in our community to help build a foundation for our families and all of our residents. We want to expand the opportunities for our seniors, our families, all of that."
The first phase calls for a 90-acre recreational development, including a full-size soccer field, baseball diamonds, stadium with a track, splash pool, concession stands, and other sports facilities.
All of it will be accessible for people with disabilities.
"Just having a fully accessible sports complex is fantastic," said Lisa Drzewiecki of the South Suburban Special Recreation Association. "Our families will have a place to go for safe space."
The State of Illinois closed the Tinley Park Mental Health Center in 2012. Since then, the property has become overrun with weeds, buildings are falling apart, and there are significant environmental issues that need to be addressed.
The state is providing $15 million to help clean up the asbestos, underground gas tanks, and chemicals on the site.
"We’ll be sure it’s cleaned up to the levels necessary to protect the public who are going to be using it as a park," said Elizabeth Harvey, an environmental attorney hired by the park district.
But not everybody is ready to play, including leadership of the Village of Tinley Park.
"We need a mixed use development here in Tinley Park. That’s our largest piece of property left," said Pat Carr, village manager.
Carr said the village would rather see the property be developed for retail and residential, which would include a recreational complex. But Carr believes turning over all 280 acres to the park district will amount to losing $20 million in potential sales and property taxes a year.
"There’s hundreds of jobs that are on the line that would’ve been created to build this mixed use development," Carr said.
But at this point, Carr admits the park-only plan appears to be a done deal.