Issues Remain On Park Lease

Members of the Church of God and Saints of Christ have a plan to renovate Tank Field in Wheeling, but city leaders said there are a few issues that must be resolved before they can consider the church’s request.

City Council’s Development Committee – Mayor Andy McKenzie, Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey and Councilwoman Gloria Delbrugge – met Tuesday to discuss the church’s interest in taking over the park, which is located off Northern Parkway not far from the former North Park landfill site.

Representing the church, Melvin Williams told the committee that plans include construction of a building near the softball field to host its summer camps and other community outreach activities, as well as renovation of the field and basketball and tennis courts there for continued public use.

The facilities at Tank Field “are basically run down because they haven’t been utilized in many years,” Williams said.

Committee member and Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey pointed out the deteriorating condition of the church’s building at 12th and Byron streets, and asked whether the congregation intends to stay at that location – a Classic Revival-style structure with Doric columns that predates the Civil War – or would look to move all its activities, including regular worship services, to the planned new building at Tank Field.

“We don’t want to end up in an agreement where you build a new structure and (the existing one) becomes abandoned,” Fahey said.

Williams confirmed the church is trying to sell the East Wheeling building, but said the congregation would not move until that is done. He said members hope to have the project complete in 18 months to two years.

Another issue is a deed restriction on the property that requires it be used for outdoor recreation – a condition attached to the use of a federal Land and Water Conservation Grant to build the park.

City Manager Robert Herron said improvements to the tennis courts and softball field wouldn’t be an issue, but he questioned whether the National Park Service would approve construction of a new building, even if it wouldn’t interfere with the recreation facilities already there. He said the city also would require assurance that the Woodsdale Baseball Association, which schedules games at the field and has contributed financially to its maintenance, would still be able to use the facility.

Mayor Andy McKenzie said an outright transfer of the property likely wouldn’t be possible, but a lease agreement could be an option.

He said he’ll ask city engineers to determine the property’s precise boundaries, and the city will revisit the issue at a later date.

During City Council’s meeting that followed the Development Committee meeting, members unanimously approved the designation of 56 Carmel Road as a redevelopment site, which will allow owner Charles Schlegel to seek a license to sell beer at a Mexican restaurant he plans to open at that address, which formerly housed the Salsa Cafe.

They also approved two spending items: $163,744 for polymer needed for water treatment, and $26,590 for six digital radios for the fire department.