Piece of ceiling collapses at Grant Park field house
Classes moved to Gold Coast, Northerly Island
09/21/2011 10:00 PM
Grant Park’s Daley Bicentennial Plaza field house, an aging structure tucked underneath Randolph Street on the park’s north edge, is being forced to close down this fall during the day because of ground-shaking construction going on beneath the park.
Construction on the Monroe Street parking garage beneath Grant Park’s northeast corner has already taken its toll, shaking the field house enough to cause part of its ceiling to collapse in late August.
As a result, the park district has moved all of its daytime programming for the field house away from Grant Park, moving adult exercise classes to Lake Shore Park in the Gold Coast and moving early childhood classes to Northerly Island.
Jacqueline Guthrie, supervisor of the park district’s central region, said it was fortunate that no one was hurt when the ceiling collapsed.
“We were very lucky, and whatever you believe of any higher being, there were no children under there and there were no people under there,” Guthrie said at a meeting of the Grant Park Conservancy last Thursday. “And that’s a heavily traveled area. We have a very constrained, small space, and we’re heavily active in this park.”
The piece of the ceiling that collapsed wasn’t very large. Only about an 8-by-4-foot area in the building’s lobby was walled off during the meeting on Thursday, but the collapse happened during a less intense period of construction. It fell in when workers were removing escalators from the garage’s north end in August.
Most of the construction to this point had been on the garage’s south end, but on Friday, construction crews started working more actively on the north end, just below the field house.
One of the tools they’re using is what Guthrie called “a power washer on steroids,” which removes concrete from walls. It’s one of many things with the potential to cause problems at the field house, she said.
“We know that during the day, until 4 o’clock, that that machine will be working here, so that has the highest risk of anything falling from the ceiling,” Guthrie said. “The noise factor is an issue, and also there are some issues in regards to chemicals they’ve been using.”
So they’re taking the opportunity to try out the programming in the South Loop at Northerly Island, hitting a new market in the process. Guthrie said she knows people may not be happy with the move across town, so they’re giving refunds to parents who ask for them, while reaching out to new folks closer to the classes’ new location.
“With every door that shuts, another opens,” Guthrie said after the meeting. “It’s a good opportunity to expand to another market.”
The roof’s collapse at the field house also brought attention to the larger issue of what to do with the aging building. It already had a leaky roof before parts of the ceiling started falling in.
“Obviously, we have a lot of issues in regards to this building,” Guthrie said. “I joke that we have an indoor water feature. If it rains, for a few days afterwards it just keeps coming down.”
Bob O’Neill, head of the Grant Park Conservancy, said it underscores the need for a new field house at the park. As part of the garage’s repair, Daley Bicentennial Plaza will be entirely torn up, replaced and relandscaped with a $35 million budget — but the leaky old field house isn’t part of those plans.
“If we don’t do this, we’re stuck with a small building that does not support or help grow a community of people who are having children, and all kinds of other people,” O’Neill said. “This building, its size is not adequate.”
Plans for the redesigned Daley Bicentennial Plaza, sans field house, are expected to be released in October, O’Neill said.