By DIANE TURNER-HURNS
Journal & Topics Reporter
Kids streamed in as the doors swung open for the first time into the sparkling new Dunne Park Recreation Center on Glenlake Street in Rosemont at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
“I’ve been waiting a long time for this,” Angel, 6, said as he smiled while peeking into the new gym and seeing the new games that awaited.
“We live in the neighborhood and this is really great,” said Daisy, 11, who had come to the new park building with Angel. “We can’t wait.”
Rosemont Park District Board of Commissioners President Richard Drehobl was there with board members, Executive Director Karen Stephens, Program Director Omar Camarillo and park employees as the newly constructed recreation center opened to the public.
“The new recreation center is not totally complete, but with so many kids out of school for Veterans Day we thought it would be a good day to have a soft opening,” Drehobl said during the commissioners’ last meeting Tuesday, Nov. 8. “We’ll have a larger, grand opening at a later date, but as of Friday, Dunne Park Recreation Center will be open to residents and guests alike.”
The new center is about the same size as the recreation center on Barry Street. It includes a full gym complete with games and an electronic scoreboard. The basketball backstops have been ordered for the gym and should be in place by the end of the year so residents can play hoops on the full court.
To the right of the registration desk is a brightly lit hallway that leads to an activity room with a fireplace. Just up the stairs is the “gathering room” complete with its existing Bavarian decor, light fixtures, old beams and furniture. The room is part of the existing park warming house, a small structure previously used by ice skaters.
Above the fireplace in the warming room, which overlooks the park’s large pond, is a plaque dedicated to former Cook County Board President George Dunne. He helped secure Cook County Forest Preserve property for the village.
“Once the game rooms are completed they will be open for use,” Stephens said. “On the second floor is a banquet room.”
Back in the registration area, new park employee Ida Savides, of Rosemont, kept busy checking-in several local kids and getting acquainted with the new center. In the gym, kids and adults played with a giant bouncy ball where one can get inside and roll around.
Enjoying the activities was Rosemont’s first park district executive director Robert Thompson.
“I think this is fabulous,” Thompson said. “Rosemont has always provided great recreation opportunities for its residents and visitors alike. As the village grows so to do programs and facilities like this.”
Thompson ran the park district from 1967 until he retired in 1997. “After I retired I played some golf but had to stop because unfortunately I have a weak heart,” Thompson said. “I’ve had two bypass surgeries. However, the Mayo Clinic helped correct a leaky valve, so now I’m doing fantastic.
“This facility is great,” Thompson said. He said at first, he began as a physical education teacher at Rosemont School. When the park district began he worked part-time as a teacher at the school and the other half at the park district.
“I’ve known most of the park district board, such as Ricky (Drehobl), since they were kids in my classes,” Thompson said. “In 1974 I went full-time as head of the park district.”
He said there’s still the same amount of children enrolled now in park programs as there were when he was head of the parks. “There are about 200-250 in the village.”
The recreation center at 9401-9499 Glenlake St., south of Higgins Road and west of River Road, was estimated to have cost the village $3,551,083. Construction began last spring.
Camarillo said the recreation center will open 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 4 to 9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The rec center will be fully staffed. “We’ve hired six or seven part-time employees to man the new center,” Camarillo said. “They will be manning the front desk, the gym and more. There will be a monitor at all times in the gym.”
A new parking lot next to the outdoor playground provides plenty of spaces.