Legislators who represent Evanston in Springfield upped the State’s commitment from $1 million to $1.5 million to help pay for construction of the new Robert Crown Community Center (RCCC), funding made possible from Governor J. B. Pritzker’s Rebuild Illinois capital bill.
That extra money boosted the Robert Crown capital campaign over the $14 million mark. “We can’t thank Senator Laura Fine and Representatives Robyn Gabel and Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz enough for their dogged determination in getting Evanston its fair share of Governor Pritzker’s state capital bill. Thanks to our legislators, Friends of the Robert Crown Center is down to the final $1 million left to raise to complete the capital campaign,” said Daniel Stein, President of Friends of the Robert Crown Center (FRCC).
Gov. Pritzker signed the $45 billion Rebuild Illinois capital spending plan on June 28, 2019, which at the time included $1 million toward the new RCCC. In the frenzy around the end of the 2019 Spring Session, a clerical error omitted Sen. Fine’s request for an additional $250,000 for the RCCC. A trailer bill to correct the error was not acted on in the 2019 Fall Veto Session. During last month’s special session to pass an emergency budget and reauthorize a few critical bills including Rebuild Illinois, Sen. Fine seized an opportunity to right that wrong and win even more funding for the project.
Senate Amendment 1 to House Bill 64 added $500,000 to the Rebuild Illinois commitment to the new RCCC, which now consists of two grants of $750,000 each, for a total of $1.5 million. House Bill 64 passed on May 24, 2020. and was signed by Governor Pritzker on, June 12.
Acting City Manager Erika Storlie also praised the state delegation, and thanked FRCC for advancing the City $637,500 to help ease the COVID19-induced budget crunch. “Senator Fine and Representatives Gabel and Gong-Gershowitz are great allies to the City of Evanston, and we thank them for keeping their eyes on the prize. We also want to thank Friends of Crown for stepping up when we needed them. This is what a successful public-private partnership looks like,” she said.
FRCC recently advanced the City of Evanston $637,500 to pay additional debt service payments. FRCC has now transferred more than $6.637 million to the City, including the entire $6 million share for construction costs as outlined in the City’s funding plan for the new RCCC.
In a letter to Rep. Gabel dated December 12, 2017, FRCC board members began lobbying for State money even before Governor Pritzker’s election and before the Rebuild Illinois fund was even conceived. Sen. Fine and Reps. Gabel and Gong-Gershowitz met with the leadership of Friends of the Crown Center on Feb. 22, 2019 to map out a strategy for the coming legislative session to bring back capital funding from Springfield. The legislative team worked together to maximize the benefits to the City of Evanston and taxpayers.
The new Robert Crown Community Center was born of the Evanston community’s desire to create an innovative facility and park, a landmark community center featuring a 6,000-squarefoot state-of-the-art public library and technology center, modern childcare center, art and dance studios, a running track, two NHL-sized ice rinks, a first-class gym inside a brand new building that opened in February.
Demolition of the old Robert Crown Center was completed last month and three illuminated artificial turf fields, the first available turf fields in Evanston, are now under construction and are expected to be completed in late July or early August.