Naperville Park District submitting grant for Nike Sports Complex improvements

Nike Sports Complex sign
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The Naperville Park District is in the process of preparing a grant application that could help fund several improvements at the Nike Sports Complex. The work coincides with the development of a master plan for the popular amenity.

District officials are hoping financial resources from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development, or OSLAD, grant program will help bring some of the looming projects to fruition in the near future. 

What the funds could cover

Eric Shutes, Naperville Park District’s director of planning, outlined some of the projects that could be funded at the Nike site, 288 W. Diehl Road, depending on if — and how much — grant funding will be allocated.

Expanding an asphalt and multi-loop trail within the complex is one of the items on the district’s capital improvements list.

“As we know, trails are a top outdoor recreational amenity from our community surveys,” Shutes said as he outlined the list of proposed projects at a park board meeting on Thursday, April 25.

The list of proposed projects also includes the addition of a challenge course, which Shutes said “is very similar to the popular amenity that we currently offer at Wolf’s Crossing Community Park.”

Other potential projects include a shade pavilion overlooking Nike’s cricket area — a feature Shutes said players have been requesting — as well as renovations to the existing tennis and pickleball courts.  

Additionally, funds could go toward additional water play features, playground renovations and modifications to the concrete hub of the complex’s ballfield plaza so it has accessibility accommodations that are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

From natural to synthetic turf

The baseball and softball fields also could undergo a change, in part with a contribution from Naperville Little League Baseball. Shutes indicated the organization has expressed interest in partnering with the district on a project tied to the OSLAD grant.

The proposal entails converting two infields from the existing natural turf design to a synthetic turf instead. Naperville Little League Baseball could donate funds as a part of the proposal.

Several questions about the scope of the work, and its impact, were raised during the preliminary discussion at the recent park board meeting, including the process of bringing the proposal before NPD’s commissioners.

“We worked with the field turf manufacturer to ensure it met the needs of our patrons,” Shutes said. “We worked closely in the selection process with Naperville Little League.”

If the conversion takes place, Shutes said Nike’s baseball fields will closely resemble many of the others in the region.

“This has actually been a trend around our area that we’re seeing with softball and baseball, through the high schools and colleges,” Shutes said. “The advantages of this type of synthetic turf infield is that you can get out on the fields much quicker, and it’s much lower maintenance. We’re looking to improve the playability and also provide more opportunities for scheduling the games.”

NPD board commissioner Rich Janor said he agreed with the recommendation as it was presented.

“What’s being proposed is definitely the industry standard and the national standard,” Janor said.

Next steps in the process

Shutes said the district is working with consultants with Plainfield-based Upland Design on the grant submission. The firm had worked with NPD in the past for a similar endeavor at Wolf’s Crossing Community Park, 3252 Wolf’s Crossing Road.

“As next steps, the intent is to work with Upland Design to gather community input and conduct the open house meetings, formulating a site and master plan and submitting an OSLAD grant proposal,” Shutes said. “The plan is for (the grant) to be submitted in September.”

Mary Gibson, president of NPD’s board of commissioners, said she was pleased to see grant procurement efforts underway.

“Thank you for all of the work staff puts into this to alleviate the burden on our taxpayers and also the Naperville Little League agreement,” Gibson said to Shutes and other NPD representatives. “It’s a great example of the way we can work with our community partners and other government agencies.”

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