2017 Year In Review


Miriam - Journal & Topics

As 2017 comes to a close, Rosemont continues on full steam ahead. The past year saw the beginning of various projects and initiatives -- something the village has long been noted for -- which are keeping up their momentum heading into 2018.

Business and commercial developments continue to flourish in Rosemont, as officials broke ground on the new Pearl District (the mixed-use development planned for restaurants, office space), a new baseball stadium, and boutique hotel, The Rose. Rosemont announced the upcoming opening of its first Harley Davidson dealership, and MB Financial Park ends the year saying hello to a new name. Beginning in 2018, the entertainment district will be known as Parkway Bank Park.

Rosemont also had a big year in sports. The village acquired the Chicago Bandits softball team, which had been playing at The Ballpark at Rosemont for 5-1/2 years. And, they welcomed the Chicago Dogs, the new professional baseball team which will call Impact Field home.

As a community, Rosemont continued to thrive, with residents supporting local fundraisers, engaging in park district classes and activities, attending school events, and giving summer camp its highest attendance yet.

Rosemont continues to grow as a community, always keeping an eye to the future. Looking back, here are the Journal’s top stories of 2017:

1). Chicago Dogs

A longtime empty piece of property north of Balmoral Avenue and west of the Tri-State Tollway (I-294) came to life in 2017 as construction began in earnest on a new 6,300-seat outdoor baseball stadium. Impact Field is now home to the new Chicago Dogs minor league baseball team that’s part of the American Association of Independent Baseball league based in Durham, NC. The 100-game schedule will begin in late May. A few months ago, the Dogs named former Major League player and manager Butch Hobson its first manager. During off-season months, the arena will be used for a variety of events such as a location where concerts and other community activities will be held.

2). The Pearl

This is the latest in a long line of retail and restaurant developments the village of Rosemont has spearheaded over its more than 60-year history. Located south of Balmoral Avenue across from Impact Field, the Pearl will include a new boutique hotel, two new restaurants, a Dave & Buster’s entertainment center, a village-owned parking garage and possibly more. It is expected to open around May.

3.) East Leyden Gets A New Look

A big story for Rosemont high school students in 2017 and continuing into 2018 are the renovations and planned construction at East Leyden High School, which many Rosemont students attend.
Initial renovation projects at East Leyden began over the summer, including converting the wood shop and two classrooms into collaborative educational space and classrooms and relocating the wood shop to the auto classroom on the north side of the Franklin Park school.

The old pool is transitioning into the new wrestling room, and the old wrestling room is being converted into the new girls locker room.

Further plans for East Leyden include building a two-story cafeteria with a mezzanine overlooking a new aquatic center and courtyard. Construction begins in March, with the official groundbreaking taking place at East Leyden’s Dodge Field on March 15.

The renovations and construction are part of Dist. 212’s biggest construction effort in its history. Initial estimates for the East Leyden projects came in at $55 million.

The work on East Leyden is paid for through a debt certificate, which allows the district to spread the cost of construction over 20 years rather than implementing a tax referendum.

With work expected to be completed in 2019 -- in time for the 2019-2020 school year -- East Leyden‘s makeover will remain a topic of interest in 2018, as well.

4). Bandits Finish First Season Under Rosemont Ownership

This year marked the inaugural year of Rosemont taking ownership of the Chicago Bandits women’s professional softball team, a member of the National Pro Fastpitch league. Although the team began playing in The Ballpark at Rosemont more than five years prior, the 2017 season was the team’s first as a part of the village under the leadership of General Manager Toni Calmeyn.
During the 2017 season, the Bandits went 25-24 in the regular season before falling to the USSSA Pride in an Aug. 18 playoff game. The Bandits drew about 1,000 fans to the Ballpark each game.
Over the past year, Calmeyn said Rosemont officials and employees played instrumental roles in helping the team, lending a hand in everything from building a website to designing promotional materials.

Looking to the 2018 season, Calmeyn and her staff have spent the past few months resetting contracts with trainers and staff, gathering sponsorships, crafting a travel schedule, and putting together the best team for the upcoming season. The team regroups in May.

5). O’Hare Expands

O’Hare International Airport continues to expand its cargo campus in plain eyesight of Rosemont residents. In October, the airport opened a new $10 million DHL facility situated between Des Plaines and Rosemont.

The new space sits in the northeast section of O’Hare, where a 240,000-square-foot cargo facility housing a warehouse and offices opened in August. The DHL center encompasses 54,000 square-feet and brings 75 new jobs to the area, including export agents, import agents, office personnel and training staff.

A new multimodal facility is also underway at O’Hare, across Willow Creek from Rosemont. The facility, with an expected opening date in 2018, brings all of the airport’s public parking and rental car locations together into one place. The facility sits at Mannheim and Zemke and is expected to act as a new gateway to the airport.

The opening of these new facilities brought renewed interest to a planned eastbound I-90 exit ramp at Lee Street to mitigate traffic the campus may cause.

6). Kenneka Jenkins

On Sept. 10, a 19-year-old Chicago girl was found dead inside a freezer at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Rosemont, setting off an investigation by the Rosemont Public Safety Department and protests over the handling of the case.

Jenkins had attended a party in a guest room of the hotel on Sept. 8 and was reported missing the next day. Staff searching the building following the report ultimately found the body in a freezer shortly after midnight Sept. 10. Crowne Plaza surveillance video showed Jenkins walking alone through the hotel in the early hours of Sept. 9, visibly weaving and stumbling.

No footage of her entering the freezer was made available, something activists and protesters found suspicious. The protesters congregated outside the hotel each night for days, expressing frustrations over what they saw as inaction on the part of police and negligence on the part of hotel staff, who refused to show Jenkins’ mother surveillance footage without police orders.

On Oct. 20, Rosemont Public Safety officially closed the case, classifying the incident as an accidental death.

7). Park Gets A New Name

In mid-October, Rosemont reached a three-year deal with Parkway Bank for naming rights of the village’s entertainment district, known as MB Financial Park since its creation in 2012.
Under the deal, Parkway Bank will pay Rosemont $600,000 each year to attach their name to the 200,000-square-foot entertainment park.

This amount falls short of the price paid by MB Financial, but Mayor Brad Stephens said the new deal would turn out to financially benefit Rosemont, as Parkway Bank requested less incentives. For example, part of MB Financial’s naming deal included regular use of an Allstate Arena suite, which is not part of the Parkway Bank agreement.

While village officials had been in discussion with MB Financial for continuation of the naming rights, negotiations fell through. Rosemont offered a three-year renewal to MB Financial at $730,000 each year, including small annual increases. But because of a merger, MB Financial asked to renegotiate the previously agreed upon three-year deal down to one year, Stephens said.

8). Veterans Memorial

An area focus throughout 2017 was respecting veterans, culminating in the visit of one of the traveling versions of the Vietnam Memorial Wall to Lake Park in Des Plaines.

Alex Podgor from Rosemont Boy Scout Troop 20, already interested in a military career, was looking for an Eagle Scout project. He got acquainted with the veterans in the nearby Des Plaines American Legion Post when he realized his own village did not have a monument for veterans itself.

Working with the village, and with Mayor Brad Stephens’ blessing, Alex organized assistance, funding and permissions to erect a memorial of flag poles at Stephens Park on the north side of Higgins Road. Dedicated on Memorial Day, the memorial includes flags for the five branches of U.S. military service -- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard -- as well as the POW-MIA flags, the American, Illinois and village flags.

The project took the better part of a year, an extra challenge because Alex was finishing his senior year at East Leyden High School and preparing to enter the military as soon as he reached his 18th birthday in August.

9). Our Lady Of Hope Turns 60

The transition of the old Douglas Aircraft factory property into O’Hare International Airport had paralleled the growth of the Rosemont area in the years during and after World War II. The factory had brought thousands of jobs to the area, along with better roads and additional housing. A year after residents in local subdivisions and surrounding farms incorporated the village of Rosemont in 1956, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced plans to organize a new parish, based in Rosemont.

The Rev. Francis Buck, assigned as the first pastor in 1957, came out to survey the territory. It was a time when the landscape was being reconfigured. The tollway system was under construction, with contractors moving dirt from borrow pits into on-ramps and hauling excess dirt from excavations to relocate the path of the flood-prone Willow Creek around the outer edge of the Scott Street subdivision.

Father Buck’s niece, Mary Francis Buck, watched some of the early flights into O’Hare’s original airfield near Higgins and Mannheim, and prayed the planes would land safely. With that hope, on a wing and a prayer, the parish was named. It was one of the last parishes founded by Cardinal Samuel Stritch, incorporating corners of Park Ridge and Des Plaines with the Rosemont territory.

The airport, the travelers who came through its terminals, and the visitors to Rosemont’s subsequent convention business and hotels became one of the parish’s mission projects. Our Lady of Hope parish serves its own members and is a place where visitors from around the world may stop to worship.

Plans for the 60th year celebration were cut back in the beginning of the year when the current pastor, the Rev. John “Father Clem” Clemens had to undergo surgery. He was back in time for the Aug. 12 anniversary Mass, led by Cardinal Blase Cupich. Although Clemens is the only surviving pastor of the parish (preceded in death by Rev. Buck, Rev. Thomas Schwab and Rev. William Mannion), anniversary concelebrants included others who have been important in the parish.
These included Bishop Francis Kane, who had helped find priests to fill in for Clemens; Monsignor Ken Velo, whose family ties date back to Rosemont’s early years, Deacon Jim Ernst, and Rev. Ron Kalo.

10). Sharing The Noise

If you live in Rosemont, the proximity of O’Hare International Airport is a given. It brought the opportunities for being at the crossroads of two major tollways, a still-growing convention business, hotels and shopping, concert venues and sports teams, and jobs.

Rosemont was an early member of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission when ONCC was formed 20 years ago, preferring to keep the airport viable and obtain residential soundproofing. As the nearest neighbor at the northwest corner of O’Hare, it gets traffic from the east along the Kennedy Expressway and from the northeast, as planes depart or land on the northeast-southwest runways.

With the O’Hare Modernization Project (2005-2020) nearing completion, the ONCC membership has been working with the Chicago Department of Aviation to tweak the flight orders for overnight traffic to shift to give at least occasional relief for all the communities near runways. The “Fly Quiet” patterns run from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., one runway handling arrivals and another handling departures.

An ad hoc committee and CDA ran three sets of test rotations over 16 months in 2016 and 2017 to find sequences to shift the noise to different communities. Once the surviving northwest-southeast runway is closed next year, an “Interim Fly Quiet” plan should take over by late 2018. Although it is between parallel and diagonal runway configurations, Rosemont may benefit from some planned overnight runway repairs on the surviving diagonals, which will shift night traffic south of the main airport terminals for several months in 2019 and 2020.

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