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Park District to host 100 Earth Day events Saturday, April 20th; volunteers needed

During the Chicago Park Board regular monthly meeting held today, the Board authorized the District to move forward with $11 million in capital improvements that will increase park resources in their respective communities. 

“We are excited to bring these important investments to these parks and the communities they serve,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent & CEO Rosa Escareño. “These parks are vital community anchors that residents depend on for respite and enrichment and that’s really what these projects are about, supporting the needs and interests of the children and families we serve.”

The Board authorized a contract with the George Sollit Construction Company for the construction of the new fieldhouse at Cragin Park, 2611 N. Lockwood in the Belmont-Cragin community. A new 4000 sq. ft. fieldhouse will replace the existing 1500 sq. ft. structure, expanding the park’s capacity to optimize vital programming and other park resources. Participation for this contract is 25.84% MBE and 5% WBE, meeting the District’s goals.

“The Benson family is thrilled about the new fieldhouse, to be situated in the heart of Belmont-Cragin,” said community resident Katie Benson. “Not only will the fieldhouse serve as a focal point for community engagement and wellness, it will also be equipped with modern amenities and versatile spaces to offer a wide range of recreational activities for individuals of all ages and interests. In addition to its recreational offerings, the fieldhouse will serve as a gathering place for community events and celebrations, further strengthening the bonds among Belmont-Cragin residents.”

The Board also approved the development of a new gateway and plaza at Ronan Park, located on the North Branch of the Chicago River. This project will create a community gathering space for the park, enhance accessibility and attract visitors encouraging them to use the river as a viable destination for recreation. Features of the new gateway and plaza include a new pavilion and river overlook, pedestrian plazas, new walking paths and vehicular access drives. Other improvements include new landscaping, fencing and other site furnishings. Participation for this contract is 29% MBE and 10% WBE, exceeding the District’s compliance goals.

“Our community members are excited for the new meeting space at Ronan Park and additional native plantings and habitat improvements along the shorelines,” said Eve Miller Community Development Specialist of North River Commission and the Albany Park Chamber of Commerce. “For many, this project has shown how our parks and river access can highlight and shine a light on the importance of community improvements, leading to a vast interest from the Albany Park community.”

Other capital investments include renovations to the handball and racquetball court building at Rainbow Beach Park, 3111 E. 77th Street in the South Chicago community. Improvements to this community gem include accessible restrooms, a new kitchenette, clubroom, new roof, windows and fitness area.  Participation for this contract is 25.3% MBE and 10.8% WBE, exceeding the District’s compliance goals.

“The Rainbow Beach Racquetball Court Renovation Project is an exciting chapter in Chicago sports history and we are thrilled about this unique partnership that will elevate Chicago youth and propel both the sport and South Shore community to greater heights,” said community resident Carolyn Vazquez. “This project aims to improve the court experience for residents and visitors.”  

In addition to investing in capital improvements, the Park District is committed to investing in our green spaces. In recognition of April being Sustainability Month, the District delivered a presentation to the Board lauding its work to preserve and care for natural environment. The Park District is the city’s leading greening stewards and is committed to environmental stability in all its operations, including hosting an urban forest with more than 250,000 trees, transforming industrial sites into vibrant parkland, cultivating nearly 9000 acres of parkland, including 2000 acres of protected natural area that serves a habitat for native plantings and animal species. 

The District also provides a menu of programming that amplify the importance of sustainability work and host 60 active living research projects within parks to support educational research. In addition to supporting the environment, these and many other measures support the health and well-being of Chicago residents. Access to parks reduces stress, builds immunity, promotes imaginative play and builds community, among other benefits. Saturday, April 20th is Earth Day. In celebration of the occasion, the Park District will host 100 events across the city. Families, neighbors, corporations and other volunteers are encouraged to join the District to clean and mulch trees and other areas in their parks.  For more information on Earth Day celebrations happening in parks and to sign up, visit here.

Today the Board authorized the District to enter into a ten-year agreement with Levy Premium Foodservice Limited Partnership to manage Food and Beverage Service at Soldier Field. The responsibilities outlined in the agreement include all food and beverage service at Soldier Field, including sporting events, concerts, weddings, fundraisers and other events. 

“Soldier Field maintains a robust schedule of events that attract fans from across the city and country annually,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Rosa Escareño. “Visitors look for top level food and beverage offerings and service to enhance their event/venue experience and we are committed to providing that. Levy is a leader in the restaurant and hospitality industry and brings a wealth of experience and expertise in delivering an unparalleled culinary and customer-focused experience to event goers.”

Soldier Field hosts hundreds of events annually, including world-class events like the legendary Rolling Stones, and P!NK and international teams like Argentina and Mexico, scheduled for later this year. The venue is also home to the Chicago Bears and Chicago Fire professional sports teams.

Levy currently manages food and beverage services at more than 300 sports and entertainment venues across the country and internationally. Although Levy’s reach is extensive, their Chicago presence and deep roots within the local market provide opportunities to effectively optimize local partnerships suppliers and products. In addition, Levy is dedicated to developing young culinary talent by creating pipelines in hospitality to drive employment, economic growth, and job placement through career training/pathing, mentoring, and internship opportunities.

“Chicago is where Levy was born, and it’s the city we still call home after all these years, so we’re thrilled to begin this new partnership.” said Andy Lansing, CEO of Levy. “We know how much game days mean to the fans here, and how much the fans mean to the city. We can’t wait to welcome everyone back to Soldier Field with a whole new hospitality experience.”

Levy presented a strong vision for activating spaces, increasing points of sale, enhancing speed of service and improving on the overall fan experience at Soldier Field. The agreement also includes a $12 million investment, at Levy’s expense, to fund capital projects at Soldier Field. Some exciting improvements include new destination bars, walk-in markets, express grab & go stations, club enhancements, concourse activations and frictionless technologies. 

The opportunity to submit proposals for the contract was publicly advertised. The District worked jointly with the Chicago Bears to evaluate proposals as provided in the agreement between the Bears and the District. Participation for this contract is 25% MBE and 5% WBE,  meeting the District’s compliance goals. Levy is expected to assume Soldier Field food and beverage operations in July 2024.

The Board also granted provisional approvals for the Pitchfork Festival and ARC Music Festival scheduled to take place on park property later this year. These and other permitted events, provide an array of athletic, recreational and cultural opportunities to Chicago and are vital economic drivers, generating more than $20 million in revenue for parks annually. 

Last year, the Park District announced the launch of the Park Enhancement Fund, created to allocate a percentage of revenue from multi-day, permitted events and reinvest it directly into the park that hosted the event.