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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

Are Night Game Lights Coming To Welles Park? Vote On Plan Stalls, But Parents Still Raising Money To Get More Kids In The Game

After pushback from neighbors, parents are scaling back their plan to light the fields, which would allow more kids to participate in youth sports. Now they aim to light two fields instead of four.

Baseball at Welles Park could be played under lights if a local group is successful with its proposal.
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LINCOLN SQUARE — The Park District again is postponing a decision on whether to allow a Lincoln Square nonprofit to add lights at Welles Park’s baseball and softball diamonds.

The Welles Park Parents Association floated its pitch earlier this year to add lights at four of the five diamonds to allow nighttime games for its youth league teams. The group proposed to pay for the lights and installation in hopes of having them in place by summer.

But community members have been divided about added traffic and noise, forcing the Park District to push back its timeline to approve or deny the project by April. Amid the opposition, the parents’ group said they are scaling back their plan for the lights.

Now it’s unclear when any final decision will occur. On Monday, the Welles Park Advisory Council again tabled a vote on the issue, with the members saying they didn’t have enough specifics about the project nor enough information from the Park District and Ald. Matt Martin (47th) on their decision-making processes.

Martin is waiting for the advisory council and other neighbors to weigh in before deciding whether to support the lights. He also wants more information from the Park District on technical aspects of the project.

“We understand [Welles Park Parents Association] is exploring a revised proposal that incorporates community feedback thus far, and we anticipate that this proposal will be made available for community review and comment, including at a future meeting of the Welles Park Advisory Council,” Martin said.

The Park District, which has the final say, is waiting on the parents’ group to submit new formal plans and a letter of commitment to pay the entire cost of the project, Welles Park supervisor Becky Kliber said Monday. They also want Martin’s input before making a call.

The new proposal to install lights on two fields instead of four is under consideration, and the Park District does not yet have a cost estimate, Park District spokeswoman Michele Lemons said.

“The Chicago Park District has not received a commitment letter from [Welles Park Parents Association] at this time; however, we do support their fundraising efforts,” Lemons said.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
People walk through Welles Park in Chicago’s Lincoln Square neighborhood on Dec. 4, 2020.

The parents association said night games would expand its capacity for youth leagues, which have long waitlists.

The original proposal would have added about 280 slots for practices and games during the spring season, which runs mid-April to mid-July. The added two hours of evening activity would allow the dozens of children on the association’s yearly waitlist the opportunity to practice and play. 

The initial proposal would have cost about $600,000. Some of those grants were time sensitive, which is why the group pushed for a decision by the end of April. 

The majority of people who participated in a Welles Park Advisory Council community survey about the lights supported the initial plan. So did the Lincoln Square Ravenswood and the North Center chambers of commerce and the American Legion: Tattler Post 973 at 4355 N. Western Ave.

But some neighbors complained any lights added to the diamonds would add too much noise, create traffic and cause parking problems in the area, among other things.

The parents group still plans to seek out grants and fundraise for the revised plan, said the association’s secretary, David Saunders. Once that money is in hand, the association will submit the money with a letter of commitment to the Park District, he said.

“We are working cooperatively with the Park District to make this a reality,” Saunders said. “We anticipate that we will complete our fundraising sometime this year.” 

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