If you build it, they will sue

Despite continued opposition from area residents, the Chicago Park District approved construction of a $2 million turf soccer field in Lincoln Park yesterday.

After nearly two hours of public testimony and a closed-door meeting,  discussion among Park District Board President Gery Chico lead fellow commissioners in a unanimous 5-0 vote for the measure.

"A silent majority outweighs a passionate group of six or seven, which I respect," says Chico. "You have to put this into context."

Board members say the field will encourage children on Chicago's North Side to get involved in soccer and sports in general.

"This is an opportunity to protect the kids and engage them," says Vice President Bob Pickens. "We're doing this in the interest of my children, of your children, of the children of the City of Chicago."

However, the Committee to Keep Lincoln Park Public would rather see the field in less gentrified parts of the city where such resources are scarce.

"They've given all the capital improvements to the wealthy areas," says Greta Lear, a volunteer CKLPP member.

This issue is the crux of one of CKLPP's two proposed lawsuits against the Chicago Park District. Committee members believe the Park District violated civil rights guidelines when determining the location of the new field.

"(Two-million dollars) in the least needy part of the city," Lear says.

The Committee has been steadfast in its opposition since The Latin School was first granted permission to build a field on the public domain nearly two years ago.

On Wednesday, one of the group's chief concerns was addressed when The Latin School's $2 million investment was returned.

"The project will move forward, and Latin School will be paid the monies they had extended because a court ruled that it was not valid," said Chico.

However, CKLPP also opposes the refund since tax payer dollars will be used to compensate the school for its expenses.

"They're paying off Latin with taxpayer money because of a provision in the contract that was voided in court," says Leer. "You don't have to perform on a voided contract."

The group says it will file suit to contend the tax payer expense.

In the meantime, CKLPP has offered $10,000 to stop the project and replace it with grassy open-space. The Park District has declined the offer.

"We're going to move forward with the project," says spokeswoman Michele Jones.

The project requires an agreement with construction companies and should be completed later in the fall. The field will be open to the general public under permit approval.

Park commissioners say they held the closed-door executive session to discuss an unsuccessful legal maneuver by the community group to block Wednesday's meeting.