WEST LOOP — Whitney Young Magnet High School is set to cut the ribbon in mid-August on a $4.3 million athletic complex named after alumna and former first lady Michelle Obama.
The new complex, which sits north of the CPS selective-enrollment school’s campus at 211 S. Laflin St., will officially open after an 11 a.m. ceremony at the athletic fields on August 12, Principal Dr. Joyce Kenner said.
Obama has been invited to the ceremony, but it’s still unknown whether she will attend.
After a “long process” to secure the funding, Kenner said she’s excited to the see the athletic center become a reality.
The complex — funded through tax-increment financing dollars — will have a multi-purpose field that can host baseball, softball, football, soccer and lacrosse. It will also include a training area for track and field events, scoreboards, batting cages and seating for fans, according to Chicago Public Schools.
Kenner said the school is also working to resurface the tennis courts. It has received a grant from the United States Tennis Association and is $15,000 shy of having work started on improvements to the tennis facilities.
They hope to raise the remaining money and open the resurfaced tennis courts next summer.
In reflecting on the naming, Kenner said Michelle Obama “embodied the spirt of athleticism.”
During her time as first lady, Obama spearheaded a national fitness campaign — “Let’s Move!” — to fight childhood obesity.
Last November, Obama, who graduated from Whitney Young High School in 1981, kicked off her “Becoming” book tour at the school.
“She has always been a proponent of physical activity to improve our health … and a proponent of school community …and her position needs to be honored,” Kenner said.
Construction on the athletic complex began last September.
The athletic field is next to the 7.32-acre Skinner Park. Skinner Park Advisory Council President May Toy previously expressed concerns about community access to the fields.
Kenner said community members will be able to use the track and the fields with a permit.
The principal cautioned that if they are ruined from dog urine or feces, school officials would have to start locking up the fields.
“We want to be good partners with the community,” Kenner said.
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