Neighbors still in disagreement over Sheridan Park improvements
December 1, 2011

By Tim Weldzius

After earning both praise and staunch criticism for adding artificial turf and stadium-style lighting to Sheridan Park, Larry Doody has announced he will step down as Sheridan Park advisory board president.

“I’m unhappy with what some people have told the press” about those initiatives, Doody explained
at a recent board meeting. “I think that these people have misrepresented the truth, and this isn’t something that I’ll miss. You get no money for your troubles” as board president. “Some of the things that people say about you are unacceptable.”

A group of neighbors from the nearby Garden Courts properties, led by Sandy Albecker, allege that efforts to modernize the park have violated their rights as residents. When Doody proposed installing two new scoreboards, criticism intensified at recent board meetings.

“I don’t think that the people living around here want a scoreboard,” Albecker said. “This park has existed for over 100 years without a scoreboard, and I think that a scoreboard would cheapen the park experience.”

Although opponents have spent substantial time at recent meetings airing complaints, board members maintain a majority of residents welcomes the park’s updates.

“There’s a very vocal but small minority that has objected to the field and to the use of the field,” said Board Treasurer Kay Ragozzino, who also lives in the Garden Courts properties. “But there’s also an enthusiastic, larger group of residents who are very excited about the programs we offer to kids and adults, especially when it comes to flag football and baseball.”

“You can’t please everyone,” added Marty Murphy, the park manager. “Some people want more lighting, some people want less lighting, and some people want no lights at all. It’s amatter of finding an arrangement that everyone can live with.”

So far, at least two residents said they definitely will register as advisory board candidates for the December elections.

Anthony Martinez, who has played sports at Sheridan for the past 26 years, appreciates the improvements for which the previous board fought.

“I want to see the lights stay on a little bit longer, actually,” said Martinez, who is considering a bid for board president or vice president.

“I love this neighborhood, I love this park, and I think that we could all work a little more civilly together,” added Peter Tucic, noting previous meetings that turned into shouting matches. “I will definitely run for vice president.”

Albecker does not plan to run in the elections.

Murphy warned all potential candidates that “what the advisory board says is not a mandate. I am still the supervisor, and I will make the final decisions.” Since Sheridan Park installed lighting, it has seen a spike in little league baseball participation as a result of summer night games. These additional games have increased park revenue, and the current board has set up a profit-sharing system in which surplus baseball money goes toward other sports programs.

“The reason we’re doing this is because there’s kids who do baseball, flag football, and swimming,” explained Dave Maher, a longtime little league coach at the park who raised much of the money to pay for improvements. “Flag football is brand new, and swimming is still getting off the ground. Baseball makes enough money to help these programs out.”

Most recently, the park installed backstroke swimming flags above the pool. Baseball earnings also have been earmarked for the two proposed scoreboards. Sheridan Park is located at 910 S. Aberdeen St. Call (312) 746-5369.