Whitney Young’s sports complex was to be for the public. But West Loop’s neighbors are locked up and charge fees

WEST LOOP – A fee-based reservation system and padlock facilities make residents question whether Whitney Young Magnet High School’s publicly funded flights and facilities at Skinner Park are truly for the community.

The prestigious state high school unveiled its $ 4.3 million sports complex in 2019, named after alumna and former first lady Michelle Obama. Funded entirely by tax increases, the state-of-the-art multifunctional field can host many sports, and the facility has a training area for athletics events, backgammon, wadding cages and more.

At the time of its opening, the complex was hailed as a facility for “everyone”. Although students will have priority in the field, it had to be open to the public – except for the grass field, which will require a permit, said earlier principal Joyce Kenner.

But in recent months, residents have complained that they come to the site during its public use only to find it locked with a padlock, said May Toi, head of the Skinner Park Advisory Board.

“I don’t think the neighborhood has to put up a 10-foot fence to use this track,” he said.

Whitney Young’s tennis courts also recently reopened after the resumption was made possible by a successful donation campaign that included grants and community funding. Some in the community were surprised when the school introduced a new reservation system based on a fee of $ 15 per hour for court use.

That’s not what the school agreed to, said He, who had previously agreed with Kenner that “at least half of these tennis courts will remain open to the public free of charge.”

Kenner was not immediately available for comment. Athletic director Chris Cassidy did not answer calls.

credit: Melody Mercado, Block Club Chicago
Michelle Obama’s sports complex was locked in public on Thursday, June 9.

The toy enlisted the help of Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., 27, said he was in contact with Chicago public schools to resolve the issue.

Burnett, who supported the addition of Michelle Obama’s sports complex to the neighborhood, said he did not support the restricted access and fees described by Toy.

“Everyone is getting involved because of budget constraints, which is understandable, but it should not be at the expense of people in the community,” Burnett said. “Public space, public park, public money, we want to make sure everyone gets a fair share of what’s available.”

A spokesman for Chicago’s public schools said in a statement that the district was “committed to creating a safe and friendly school environment.”

“The county is reviewing these allegations and complaints and will work to resolve any conflicts,” CPS officials said.

“Every time I called, the answer was always no.”

Milos Baic has been running West Loop Football Club since 2015 to provide a fun, competitive youth football program at an affordable price. The club trains in Skinner Park and hosts summer camps and children’s races.

When Baich learned about the grass fields being built in Whitney Young, he turned to school officials to see if they would have access to them, but received no specific answer, he said. When the fields opened, he tried several times to get permission, but was constantly told that the fields were not available during the day, he said. The proposed hours were 8pm or later, too late for a children’s football camp, Baic said.

So, the club continues to train and play in Skinner Park, while Baic watches other groups use the field, which he is trying to enter from 2019.

Every time I called, the answer was always “no”, but then we see someone else in those days [using them]and it’s like, how can this happen? “said Baic.” It’s not like we don’t pay. “

credit: Melody Mercado, Block Club Chicago
Whitney Young recently unveiled her recently renovated tennis courts and with it a fee-based booking system. Previously, the courts were free.

Darshan Desai, who lives near Skinner Park, said Whitney Young leaders need to work more closely with the community.

As an avid tennis player, Desai donated $ 200 to the school’s campaign to restore the tennis courts. Desai thought he could contribute to the cause as someone who would like to use the renovated courts, unaware that access would change once they reopened.

“I think a lot of people would agree that at least with the tennis courts and maybe some other things, that it was very clear to her that the updates come out as FYI,” Desai said. “I do not think I have ever seen any answer to a question asked by a resident. Whatever they wanted to say … it was one-way. “

Desai said he did not oppose the fee structure because it helps improve the management of the courts, but said the cost was slightly higher than other facilities. For example, at XS Tennis, a facility on the south side, Desai pays $ 16 an hour for its courts.

“I fully admit that I will be willing to spend more than the average person when it comes to tennis, because that is my passion,” said Desai. But if I had to play a number, I thought, probably $ 10 an hour. So $ 5 per person is a little more reasonable. “

School officials did not answer questions about why they decided to introduce a fee-based reservation system.

Reservations for tennis courts are only available on weekday evenings and on weekends throughout the day. That availability needs to be expanded, as courts often remain unused during the day, Desai said.

Desai said he had approached the school to ask to expand the court’s availability. Officials told him that availability could increase this summer – if the courts are no longer reserved for other camps and events, he said.

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