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  • Megann Horstead

Nowell Park Rec. Center opens doors

A Saturday ribbon-cutting marked the opening of the Nowell Park Recreation Center, which will help extend programming to Joliet’s East Side.

The new facility, 199 Mills Rd., was made possible because of a 2014 referendum. The city did not have a recreation facility on its East Side previously.

Joliet Park District Executive Director Tom Carstens said the project, along with several park improvements, was identified as a need.

“This is the biggest part,” he said of the $19.5 million referendum.

“The need for a recreation center on this part of the city is evident,” he said. “We’re happy with how it turned out and the community’s involvement in the development of the facility.”

“It’ll impact the area and the surrounding neighborhoods, getting them involved in healthy programs and activities for all ages,” Carstens said.

The path towards completion has been a long one, Carstens said. Nowell Park Recreation Center was expected to open in 2016.

“We had the $19.5 million referendum for all the projects,” Carstens said. “We were within budget. We had to get soil testing and a traffic study. We had to seek approval from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Illinois Department of Transportation, and the Will County Highway Department. The State of Illinois had to review the project and the site of the [now-demolished] bathhouse building archaeologically and historically. There were a lot of steps to get this project initiated.”

The Joliet Park District used the design services of Dewberry Architects. Henry Bros. was the general contractor for the project. The 30,667-square-foot recreation center is composed of a 10,000-square-foot fitness center, two-lane indoor track, community rooms, a batting cage, an early childhood classroom and courts for basketball, volleyball and pickleball.

Joliet resident James Hill stood watching as a game of pickleball got underway in one of the facility’s courts. He said it’s great for people to have a recreation center close to home.

James’ wife, Irene Hill, agreed.

“It’s been a long time coming,” she said. “It’s a gift. We hope the community will embrace it and utilize it.”

Irene Hill said the recreation center’s design impressed her.

“With the preschool and the beautiful views on the north side of the building, it is very welcoming,” she said.

Joliet resident Erica Holmes said she is looking forward to putting her membership to use at the new facility.

“Because I live down the street from the YMCA, the [Park District facility] on the West Side was a distance,” she said. “To see positive moves happening to the East Side is much-needed.”

Holmes said the new facility is a welcomed addition to the city’s East Side.

“I’m super excited,” she said. “It’s a place for programming, and it’s open to seniors, families and the general population. It’s bringing the community together to form a united front. It’s my new home. I encourage everyone to get involved.”

Carstens hopes people look into the Joliet Park District’s membership rates and specials.

“They’re affordable,” he said. “People can take advantage of that. It’s $200 for residents or if you break it down by month, it’s $12.50. Track and fitness memberships are included.”

Carstens stressed the importance of providing accessible and affordable Park District programming.

“We’re working on developing a financial assistance program,” he said.