Whiting considers leasing community center, expanding Stadium District

2013-08-13T23:15:00Z 2013-08-13T23:38:04Z Whiting considers leasing community center, expanding Stadium DistrictPAUL CZAPKOWICZ Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
August 13, 2013 11:15 pm  • 

WHITING | A standing room-only crowd filled the Whiting Community Center on Tuesday to hear Mayor Joseph Stahura discuss several proposed projects he referred to as controversial.

One is an option the city is considering to lease the Whiting Community Center to the YMCA for $1 per year.

Stahura said the city loses about $500,000 annually due to operational costs at the center, which houses a swimming pool, two gymnasiums, bowling lanes and a fitness area among its amenities. Leasing to the YMCA would absolve the city of that financial burden, he said.

"The YMCA will then be responsible for 100 percent of all the operating costs, including staff, insurance, utilities, regular maintenance," Stahura said.

The YMCA would have complete control over operations at the center and would set its own rates.

An audience member asked Stahura what the rates would be.

He said that has not been specifically discussed with the YMCA. However, the rate would be higher than what is paid now but programming would be improved, he said.

Even if the YMCA takes over operations, the city would still be able to use the facility for public events and as an emergency shelter, Stahura said.

The approximately 30 employees at the community center would have options that include transferring to other open positions within the city, taking early retirement, interviewing with the YMCA and receiving severance pay, he said.

Another proposal discussed was a Stadium District plan that involves the addition of different residential opportunities and various attractions to make Whiting a tourism destination.

The project area would involve all properties east of the Schrage Avenue alley and north of 121st Street.

"Over 75 properties will need to be acquired by the city," Stahura said.

Stahura talked of the possibility of bringing museums to the city, including one that would show the history of the Standard Oil Co. Other ideas included a Chicago Baseball Museum and a National Mascot Hall of Fame.

A group from the national Mascot Hall of Fame will be visiting the city next month to give a proposal, he said.

"They actually would like to hold an annual induction of mascots in downtown Whiting," Stahura said.

There also have been inquiries regarding bringing a minor league baseball franchise to Whiting and talk of building an ice arena to house a minor league hockey team.

Other topics discussed were a plan to bring a hotel into the Whiting Park area and Stahura's intention of asking the City Council to raise water and sewer fees.

He said a new water line needed on 119th Street between Schrage and New York avenues will cost about $1 million and that the water department only receives annual gross revenues of about $550,000.

"Rates have been flat for 13 years," Stahura said.

He said the average customer will end up paying $5 more per month if the rate increase is approved.

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