Publish Date

 Park District and Board honor winners of the 74th Annual Mum Bowl football championship 
Today, during its final monthly meeting of the year, the Chicago Park District Board of Commissioners approved the District’s 2024 budget appropriations which prioritizes park investments that achieve equity and increased accessibility. The $574.4 million financial plan is responsive to the feedback received from Chicago residents throughout the District’s robust and intentional engagement process.  
Among the Park District’s 2024 highlights are the commitment to bolster programming and other opportunities for the entire family with a focus on teens and older adults, safeguarding parks by onboarding 20 new, full-time security professionals and building strong resilient communities through sustainability efforts. The 2024 Budget projects the District will make over $500 million in capital investments over the next five years, including two new neighborhood fieldhouses and $10 million to remove architectural barriers to accessibility in over 80 park fieldhouses.  
“On behalf of the Park District and the communities we serve, I’d like to thank the Board for their support and approval of the 2024 Budget,” said General Superintendent and CEO Rosa Escareño. “This sound financial plan reflects the thoughtful input of park stakeholders including patrons, partners and our workforce. It also prioritizes the needs of the families and communities with equity and accessibility top of mind.”    
The approved 2024 budget is available for viewing on the Chicago Park District’s website
Also approved was funding for important infrastructure upgrades that will assure reliability for decades to come. Projects include $8.5 million in major upgrades to the District’s aging electrical infrastructure including the Garfield Power House Substation, a 100+ year old electrical system that provides power to Garfield Park, Union Park, LaFollette Park and Skinner Park. The dated system experiences sporadic outages lasting on average three days and impacting operations at all four parks due to the way the old system is designed. Work will include disconnecting the four parks from the Garfield Substation and instead providing independent electric power to the parks. 
In addition, similar power station upgrades will take place to aging infrastructure in Washington Park that also supplies the Jackson Park fieldhouse, harbors and concessions. Similar work will also be completed in Lincoln Park to address power reliability issues to park amenities including the Lincoln Park Zoo.  
Another $6 million will allow for the acceleration of the long term, lead service line replacement program. Two new crews of plumbers will be hired and dedicated solely to the program. With the additional workforce, along with existing trades and capital resources, the Park District estimates increasing its completion rate from roughly 35 to 150 fountains per year providing that all drinking fountain remediations will be completed in five years. 
“These investments in long term infrastructure reflect prudent stewardship of public assets   that further strengthen the Park District while also enabling better service delivery to our park patrons,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Rosa Escareño. “We are extremely grateful to be able to leverage these funds to prioritize the much-needed modernization of park infrastructure which directly translates to providing improved and uninterrupted services to the families and communities that rely on parks each day.” 
Other projects included in the 5-year capital improvement program that is currently underway include Chicago Splash! spray feature renovations, riverbank restoration projects at Legion Park, River Park and Ronan Park, major field house restorations including the cultural center improvements at Humboldt Park, Garfield Park, Douglass Park, and Austin Town Hall Park; a new artificial turf baseball diamond at Burnham Park in partnership with Kenwood High School and Morgan Shoal shoreline revetment work in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. More than half of the 5-year capital program is committed to investments in historically disinvested neighborhoods in the south and west sides, underscoring the Park District’s continued commitment to equity in neighborhood parks.  
Also during today’s meeting, the Board authorized the District to enter into agreements with 23 general construction contractors and 13 playground contractors to be included in the District’s qualified vendor pool. Generally, projects for this pre-qualified pool are complex facility and site improvement projects that may involve disciplines including ADA compliance, roofing, masonry, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and architectural.  More than 20% of the participating firms are new to the General Contractor Pool and 38% are minority contractors. The Pool will be open for new contractors to apply and qualify into the pool until December 31, 2027 
Today the Board authorized the District to enter into a 45-day public comment period to rename the Montrose Dune Expansion Area in Lincoln Park the Monty and Rose Wildlife Habitat. Arriving in 2019, Monty and Rose were the first two Piping Plover chicks to fledge in Chicago and Cook County in 71 years.  They captured the hearts of people across Chicago, our nation, and across the globe.  Their story was portrayed in scores of local and national newspaper articles.  Monty and Rose went on to fledge their own chicks in 2020 and 2021. Sadly, both Monty and Rose passed away in 2022, but thanks to their presence at Montrose, scores of people were introduced to the joy of birding and to the importance of bird and habitat conservation. Two documentaries and two children’s books have been produced to retell their story.  
The Board also authorized the District to initiate a 45-day public comment period to rename Park 581, located at 11625 S. Oakley in the Morgan Park community as The Prairie Park.  For many decades, there were few houses in the area, leading locals to refer to the space as “The Prairie”.  Even though the space does not fit the habitat definition of a prairie, the community reference to “The Prairie” remains through generations of the many families that have stayed in the neighborhood.  
The Park District welcomes comments regarding these names from all residents and stakeholders which can be submitted
Also highlighted at today’s Board meeting were the accomplishments and longevity of the Junior Bears program and the champions of the 2023 season. The LaFollette Park Wildcats defeated the Ogden Park Vikings at the November 10th finals played at Soldier Field. Now in its 74th year, the tackle football program for boys and girls, ages 8 to 13, has provided quality athletic programming across the city. For generations, the Park District’s Junior Bears Football Program has supported youths’ interest in football in addition to valuable lessons like teamwork, determination and the importance of active, healthy living.