Times have changed, but Arrigo Park should not—oasis of peace needed more than ever
March 4, 2017

Decades ago, when the late Oscar D’Angelo, the University Village Association, and others in the community began working to make Victor Arrigo Park a passive, rather than active, park, we were against it.

One of our editors had played baseball there as a youngster. He knew that open space for sports and recreation was at a premium in this community, and we felt that the community could not afford to lose the park as a sports venue.

In recent years, society has become more sports-focused, and the community has kept pace. There are more recreational facilities in this community than in the past, and with the tearing down of the ABLA Homes public housing, there are open spaces in this community that could be put to recreational use.

When Arrigo became a passive park, with landscaping, peaceful spaces, and a gentle walking path, it forced those using the park for sports to find other, larger, and safer facilities. They did so, and ended up with better sports experiences than Arrigo could provide.

Now what is at a premium is peace and quiet. Arrigo Park provides that, and we do not want the community to lose those assets. Arrigo Park also provides space to walk dogs, jog, and stroll. We do not want the community to lose space for those activities, either. Arrigo Park is a unique oasis of peace and serenity that must be preserved.

Adding sports to Arrigo Park would not be a simple matter. Its grassy areas, not being meant for sports, are delicate and become torn up easily even when some locals get together for an impromptu touch football game.

More durable grass and reconfiguration of the park for sports would cost money, and as you may have noticed, City and Park District officials are not exactly sitting on bags with dollar signs on them. This expenditure would be necessitated essentially because a private lacrosse group wants to use the park.

Whatever they pay to rent the park for a few hours for training would not come close to paying for the renovations needed. There are solutions other than turning Arrigo Park from passive to active.

In the spring and summer, local and traveling baseball and softball leagues monopolize Sheridan Park. How about broadening the offerings there to include time for lacrosse and other sports?

The Chicago Housing Authority’s plans to redevelop the former site of the ABLA Homes through developer Related Midwest has been stalled for years, with acres of vacant land lying fallow. How about developing some new sports-focused parkland there with the community’s needs in mind—which does not mean allowing developers to build high buildings that the community does not want. How about just putting some unused land to good purpose without trying to extract concessions from neighbors?

How about charging private groups who want to use the new facilities higher rates? How about negotiating with Whitney Young High School and private schools in this area to add community sports on their fields?

We would like to see all the stakeholders—Sheridan Park and its Advisory Council, the Chicago Park District, the Grant Park Conservancy, Connecting 4 Communities, the Chicago Housing Authority, Related Midwest, and local aldermen put their heads together and come up with better solutions than taking away a unique peaceful space that is an asset to this community.

Whether you live on Lexington, Ada, Flournoy, or Loomis Streets, or anywhere else in the community, we encourage you to fill out the Sheridan Park Advisory Council’s survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/VZH3KHS and vote against turning the park active.

Recent national political events have shown that people need to become more politically active whether they want to or not. Our own neighborhood is a good place to start. If you value the peace and serenity of Arrigo Park, speak up now, or you and others may lose this oasis forever.