LINCOLN PARK — Construction is underway for an athletic field near the Diversey Driving Range that will be used by two nearby high schools, part of a larger effort to mitigate chronic flooding of the nearby parkland.
Crews were outside Monday with bulldozers and excavators, moving land for the project, which includes putting in a 55-foot-wide artificial turf field to replace the open, grassy area between Lake Shore Drive and the driving range, just north of Diversey Harbor.
The area was blocked off by fencing and signs reading “park improvements” are coming soon.
When finished, it will have four LED fixtures facing the field.
The project will also raise the land’s elevation and add drainage to address persistent flooding issues at the parkland just north of the driving range, mockingly referred to as “Lake Wellington.”
Soil from the construction of the turf field will be used to raise the area, Chicago Park District officials said. Natural solutions like planting and bioswale will also be added to minimize flooding.
City officials have said funding to address the flooding wasn’t available without building the field.
Neighbors have expressed concerns about the massive infrastructure project, worrying the field could attract rowdy adult sports leagues and its bright lights could be a nuisance at night.
The athletic field will primarily be used for practice by Lincoln Park and Lake View high schools, according to the project’s proposal. It will be available for recreational use by the community when it isn’t being used by Chicago Public Schools teams.
The $3 million project will be funded by CPS and could open next fall, according to Park District officials. The city is applying for grants to offset some of the costs.
Ald. Tom Tunney, whose 44th ward includes the site, acknowledged during a January community meeting the field would likely be used by adult sports leagues, which generate revenue for the city across the lakefront.
Park district officials said the lights will shut off when the park closes at 11 p.m., and coaches will have access to turn them off even earlier.
Still, some neighbors criticized the project for leaving little space for basic, open parkland.
“I just think they don’t like change,” Tunney said at the time. “We’ve got to enliven the parks to be used, and I think they’d like that quiet, dormant space, and if people want activity, they can go to the other side of” Lake Shore Drive.
Jake Wittich is a Report for America corps member covering Lakeview, Lincoln Park and LGBTQ communities across the city for Block Club Chicago.
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