Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What Happened To Challenger Park?

From today's Tribune:

For years, the faded green welcome sign at Chicago's Challenger Park in Uptown boasted of its amenities: native wildflowers and prairie grasses, fields for youth soccer and volleyball, half-court basketball and areas for ice-skating.

It must have been news to passersby on Irving Park Road, who saw nothing but a parking lot behind the fence gates.

But this summer, a few days after the Tribune began asking questions about Challenger Park, someone from the park district removed the sign and replaced it with a more apt, drab sign: Chicago Park District, Permit Parking Only.

What happened to Challenger Park's ice rink and recreational fields?

Read the whole story in the Trib here (bless their hearts), and previous UU stories here, here and here.


  1. Shiller did not return calls for comment.

    Nuff Said!

  2. When it comes to shiller as usual just promises and as usual they are made to be broken. Can anyone say what the money from Cubs parking is used for or is it funneled into Helens pocket for all those vacations. I drove through a area a few days ago and all I could see was some homeless that use it for a campground and a few watching me as I drove by.....

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Two of the most common statements made about anything in our ward that makes the news:

    1. Shiller did not return calls for comment.
    2. This was the biggest waste of money.

  5. Erika Slife, the Tribune reporter, spent quite a bit of time researching this article and speaking to long-time residents. Pretty good since the Tribune itself is involved a story about broken promises. If you want to thank her, I think she'd appreciate it.

  6. I hope someone is keeping a detailed log, perhaps a future aldermanic candidate, on exactly how many times and in what context Shiller did not return calls... could make for a VERY interesting campaign piece...

  7. All - I would suggest posting your comments on the Trib's website too. Keep them fair and factual and the people of Uptown will win the battle.

  8. "Peter Chase ... said it's their understanding that they fulfilled their part of the agreement, which included paying $250,000 for improvements."

    Barry's right - where DID that money go?

    Remember that Ald. Shiller's always been really good about making promises - theatres and mixed income housing at Wilson Yard, anyone? - so let this be a cautionary tale to anyone who wants fish farms and parking lots...

  9. Speaking as a long-time resident next to Challenger Park, some of the "promised" facilities on that sign were pretty ridiculous, considering the space. It spoke more about the naivet̩ of the Park District person who wrote/approved that text than to government's failure to keep promises. That strip is tiny (though it does extend further than the Trib implies Рit goes up to Montrose). Ice skating rink? Soccer field? That always struck us as insane.

    In the interest of fairness, the alderman only has so much say regarding the Park District. The PD’s operations & budgets are not tied to Wards (like, say, Streets & San), so the Ward doesn’t have the same level of budget pull. They can influence, but ultimately, the District has to make the decisions.

    To her credit, she and Maggie did push through the dog park project the Channing led when the PD tried to scuttle it, but it wasn’t easy. I went through a similar process in the 50th Ward with Bernie Stone, the PD and Lerner Park (where the gay rugby team plays) and it is a long, arduous process for anyone. Getting the other things in there, even if there was room? Probably impossible.

    Of course, the real underlying problem here, as posters have pointed out, is her continual failure to communicate. I shouldn’t be telling anyone this PD background. She should. And without being a condescending bitch about it.

  10. Great story.

    Please take the time to thank Ms. Erika Slife for covering this. If you have other story ideas please suggest them.

    eslife - at -

  11. My apologies: I wrote my comments before I read the article.
    A few points of clarification: To say that the wildflowers were dropped because of the dog park is a bad dodge. The sign and mowing schedule was in place for YEARS before they broke ground on Challenger Bark. I don’t know what happened with the Cubs money, of course, but the amenities promises were ridiculous to start with. And someone should have addressed those a long time ago.

    Regarding the landscaping/prairie stuff in general: Judy’s right, there were more plants. But it’s not as simple as they were just mowed down. A lot of them were removed when they had to dig the gulley, due to a lawsuit Graceland Cemetery filed against the city (the Park was pushing over the middle part of the Graceland wall).
    We asked the Park District to remove the remaining bushes, etc, that were in place against the northernmost section of the Graceland wall because the whores and drunks used them as flophouses. A lot of neighbors (who didn’t live next to them) complained. But they weren’t the ones having to shoo away the whores in the bushes, clean out the camps, bottles, beer cans, drug paraphernalia (needles, crack pipes, etc), etc. every few days or literally clean up their shit. I was.

    While they made the Park a bit less attractive from a distance, removing them got rid of a LOT of the problems we had.

    We had great success with the Park District when we engaged them (unlike the Ward office). Challenger Park is managed through the Gill Park field house on Sheridan. Give them a call or stop by regarding issues there. If you’re realistic in your requests, I think you’ll be very pleased.

  12. Interesting how the trib comes to Uptown after the Cubs sale.

  13. Interesting the Trib is just now reporting this. I wonder if it's a coincidence that the Trib just recently sold the Cubs?

  14. Most mornings when I pass by on the El, I see yet another of Uptown's attractive homeless encampments set up in the "park."

    Nothing to see here folks, please avert your eyes. Target's coming!

  15. Interesting the Trib is just now reporting this. I wonder if it's a coincidence that the Trib just recently sold the Cubs?....>>>

    Yes because the cubs are being sold and the Rickett's family is going to push for a parking structure/lots near Rickett's Field I mean Wrigley field because they need all the revenue they can get out of the team so they want to own the parking.

    They have a boat load of debt to pay down.

    So the Rickett's don't want to have those parking options that far away from the team.

    Boy wouldn't WY made a nice retail and parking structure for the Cubs?

  16. Hal is certainly right regarding the reason the taller grasses and bushes were removed. I can remember going by the park on the Red Line and it looked like a displaced persons camp circa 1946.

    Between me and the whores decent people wouldn't want to walk or go through that stretch. Imagine walking FiFi in the morning and coming across me on a mattress with a fallen woman.

    The horrrrrrrrrrror.

    The late John Boyd, military theorist and general pain in the ass, was fond of saying "every solution, creates another problem".

    That idea is really very true. The key is to try to find a problem which is less serious than the problem it resolved.

    The area that is now Challenger Park and parking lot was a huge mess. The initial "grassland" Challenger was better than the dump that it was. When problems appeared cutting the grass was a reasonable solution.

    My concern now is how much lovely cash are the Cubs paying the Park District for all that lovely parking?

  17. Hal wrote: "To say that the wildflowers were dropped because of the dog park is a bad dodge. The sign and mowing schedule was in place for YEARS before they broke ground on Challenger Bark."

    I'm glad he points this out. My recollection also is that the prairie plants were gone long before the DFA was built. The park now is very green (plain old lawn grass) with a handsome row of trees, but it's nothing like I imagine the original prairie to have been. There are still a few random boulders. Very random.

  18. My memory is the wildflowers/grasses were gone around 95-96 or so. They only lasted a few years. The dog friendly area didn't appear until after 2000.

    Over the years the Park District has added more trees and boulders to the park.

    It's a nice little area now. I miss the hookers, but there is a tradeoff for everything.

    I still await the ice rink etc.

    The basketball nets did get some use back in the mid 90's.

    For those of you who don't have memories of Uptown like I do, and that would be all of you since I'm 142 years old, here is a page from the Uptown History Blog with a photo of what the park area looked like way back in 19 hundred and 89.

  19. After thanking Erika I received this prompt reply:

    "Thanks so much for writing. I really appreciate it. In the future, please feel free to send me any story ideas you might have. I’m always on the lookout."

    I also referred her back here for more stories. They are certainly not in short supply

  20. I have to laugh... this sort of reminds me of the song from SPAM A Lot...

    "Whatever happend to my Part?"

    Or in this case, Park...

  21. at least we have tunney's park across the street at irving/red line tracks.....the Ann Sather Garden.

  22. also the park district allows you to park here if you have a permit. does anybody know the cost? its not just for the Cubs.

  23. Forty bucks a month. Less if you buy a 3-mo. permit.

  24. Off topic, but I've concluded that every single post from IrishPirate is funnier than the one before it... and I've been reading the blog and his comments for well over two years now.
    Cheers, Pirate!

  25. Neighborhood wonks may be interested in browsing the complex "cooperative development agreement" between the CTA, Chicago Park District, and the Cubs:


    see Journal page 30770, PDF page 180

  26. as with all contracts published in the proceedings, this one is highly redacted; several key attachments are missing, but it does reproduce some blurry plans

    (sub)Exhibit D: Cubs improvements

    (sub)Exhibit E: Park District improvements

    the clearer copy of the full agreement would make a fascinating FOIA target for an energetic young person

  27. the agreement was approved by the Finance committee on Monday, January 7, 1991, "deferred & published" in the full Council meeting of Jan 11, and approved at the Council meeting of Feb 6, 1991

  28. Those plans are more than enough to hold some peoples' feet to the fire. This should get forwarded to the Tribune for a follow-up article on this. There's $250,000 that's missing out there. Not only that, but who knows if they actually put in that 30" concrete sewer pipe along Buena that they were supposed to put in.