Park Board Votes To Hold Public Forum On Dodds Park Proposal

The 40-acre soccer complex at Dodds Park is the potential site for a new Central High School.

The 40-acre soccer complex at Dodds Park is the potential site for a new Central High School, if the Champaign Park District Board approves the plan.

(Jim Meadows/WILL)

The Champaign Park District Board has moved the location of the study session to the Leonhard Rec Center.

They may need the extra room.

The News-Gazette reports that the park board voted unanimously last night to hold a public forum on a proposal to allow a new Champaign Central High School building at Dodds Park, just east of Parkland College.

The Park Board had previously resisted the idea, noting the land’s value to the city as a park.

The executive director of the Champaign Park District, Joe DeLuce, said board members look forward to hearing all sides discuss the potential for the new school at that site.

DeLuce said a lot of public input, media reports, and a request from Unit 4 school district Superintendent Judy Wiegand re-opened the discussion on using the park.  He’s encouraging all parties to raise questions or concerns, including the city of Champaign, Mass Transit District, and Parkland College.

“Hopefully the park board would gather enough information from there, from our reports that we put together for them," he said.  "Then hopefully March 11 it would come together for a vote.  It would take four out of five commissioners to vote yes in order for this to be approved.”

In order for a high school to locate in Dodds Park, DeLuce said the park district and Unit 4 would have to agree to a land swap involving a portion of Dodds Park in exchange for a part of school district property.  That could include land that Unit 4 purchased earlier for a Central High at Interstate Drive. 

Unit 4 has requested 40 acres for a new school, land that currently makes up the soccer complex at Dodds.  But DeLuce notes the school would not disrupt the park’s softball complex, Olympic tribute, or any of the memorial trees that have been planted at Dodds.

Unit 4 Superintendent Judy Wiegand said Dodds Park is a better location.  Speaking before the meeting Wednesday, Wiegand said the high school would benefit from being close to Parkland College and several main roads.

"Dodds was always one that we've looked at. It was never really put on the table by the park board. But certainly from the school district's perspective, if we needed to take a look at an infill site, it would be the preferable location," said Wiegand.

The public forum was scheduled after Wiegand sent a letter to the Champaign Park District formally asking for land at Dodds Park in exchange for school district property.

The Park Board public forum is set for February 25th at 5:30 p.m. at the Leonhard Rec Center on Sangamon Drive.

Story source: WILL