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Wicker Park, Bucktown, West Town

Wicker Park Field House, Restrooms Will Open Sundays After Neighbors Petition For Expanded Hours

The field house will be open 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays starting this weekend. Neighbors gathered more than 1,300 signatures in support of the effort.

Wicker Park, 1425 N. Damen Ave., in Wicker Park on Oct. 19, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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WICKER PARK — The Wicker Park field house and its restrooms will open for part of the day Sundays this summer after neighbors petitioned the Park District to expand its hours.

Starting this weekend, the field house will be open 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Sundays through at least September, according to an email sent to neighbors by Wicker Park supervisor Keith Jones. That means the park’s restrooms will be accessible during its busy farmers market, which draws thousands of visitors every Sunday.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wicker Park field house, 1425 N. Damen Ave., was open seven days a week. But hours have been sharply curtailed, according to an archived Park District website.

The field house and its bathrooms are currently only open 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturdays, and they are closed Sundays.

That means park and playground visitors, market patrons and neighbors experiencing homelessness have been unable to use the restrooms for the bulk of the weekend, John Shirk, Wicker Park Advisory Council president, told Block Club.

The council launched a petition this month calling on the Park District to expand field house hours to 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends. The online version received almost 350 responses, on top of 800 signatures gathered in person by neighbor Mike Runkle over the past few weeks.

The advisory council also hoped hours could be extended during the week so the building can host community meetings.

While the Park District has only met part of that request by reopening the field house Sundays, Shirk on Friday said Wicker Park neighbors are “celebrating” the decision.

“We’re not back totally to the pre-COVID schedule that we’d like. But they were able to at least solve the immediate problem with the farmers market,” he said. “And we’re confident that going forward, hopefully there’ll be ways of making more progress and getting back to fully what it was.”

The Wicker Park Farmers Market saw a record 7,000 visitors during its first outdoor market of the year May 7, market manager Sofia Caracci said.

After neighbors launched their petition this month, the Park District and Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) said they supported expanding field house hours but were struggling to find additional staff to work on the weekends.

Spokesperson Irene Tostado said at the time the Park District was “working towards hiring two seasonal attendants that will be employed on the weekends.”

In Jones’ email Thursday, he said Wicker Park will get staffing assistance from other parks while additional seasonal attendants are hired.

“Thankfully we were able to acquire some help from the Region and Area to assist on other Sunday’s,” the email reads.

Runkle, who gathered the hundreds of signatures, said he was encouraged by the expansion.

“It’s not the home run that I wanted, but it’s a double. Because before it was a strikeout,” Runkle said. “Compared to a strikeout, we got on base.”

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