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Park District opens new $5.6 million Gymnastics and Recreation Center

From the balcony, guests can watch gymnastics and other events at the new Gymnastics and Recreation Center in Oak Park. The grand opening is scheduled for Saturday.  |  Phil Rockrohr/Sun-Times Media
From the main practice area, guests can view the wide range of obstacles and spaces at the new Gymnastics and Recreation Center in Oak Park.  |  Phil Rockrohr/Sun-Times Media
Program Manager Jamie Lapke shows off the two-way mirror in the preschool space at the new Gymnastics and Recreation Center in Oak Park.  |  Phil Rockrohr/Sun-Times Media

Hundreds of Oak Park residents flocked to 21 Lake St. in early October to christen the $5.6 million Gymnastics and Recreation Center, the first new structure built by the Park District of Oak Park in more than 50 years.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Jamie Lapke, operations and program manager at the new facility. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I’m grateful to be part of it.”

The 18,000-square-foot facility was designed with a loft look, with 25-foot-high ceilings and a second-floor balcony that oversees the main performance and practice space.

Park District officials spent seven years planning the new building, beginning with a 2006 study that explored various site options that best fit in particular neighborhoods and best fit the district’s needs, Lapke said.

The Park District chose the site of a former Aldi supermarket on the east side of Oak Park to help improve the area, Executive Director Jan Arnold said.

The new larger facility allowed the Park District to increase enrollment for fall programs by 50 percent.

The first floor contains a 1,764 square-foot practice area for tumbling and other activities, a separate 900 square-foot section for warm-ups and preschool classes, and a 40 foot long tumble track that drops 2 feet into the floor.

Across the tumble track lie an in-ground trampoline; a small, cushioned pit for parallel bars, vaulting and the balance beam; and a large, cushioned pit for tumbling, trampoline, bars and rings.

The single ring tower, which was limited to 18 feet in height at the Park District’s old Madison Street gymnastics facility, was expanded to two ring towers extending as high as 20 feet, 3 inches off the ground.

“We now have a little-larger-than-Olympic-sized floor,” Lapke said. “We have the capability for six boys’ Olympic events and four girls’ Olympic events. It’s awesome.”

The new facility features two multipurpose rooms that can be used for birthday parties, parking for up to 25 vehicles, four restrooms, and dozens of new cubbies for students to use.

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