Facility Profile - January 2009
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Down on the Farm

Stephen D. Persinger Recreation Center in Geneva, Ill.

By Kelli Anderson

While Old McDonald may have had a farm, chances are it never had a barn quite like the one just completed this November at Peck Farm Park in Geneva, Ill. The 50,000-square-foot recreation center, complete with silo, broad-planked barn-red siding and crisp white cupolas perched along its roofline, is the park's latest addition to a recreation area almost 20 years in the making.

Since the 1842 farm's conversion to a public park almost 20 years ago, it has won several state and national awards, thanks in great part to the vision of the district's soon-to-retire director, Stephen D. Persinger. Given that Persinger is seen as largely responsible for the 395-acre retreat's many popular attractions, including a silo-turned-observation tower, sensory garden nature trails, a 19-acre wetland, paved bike trails, an outdoor butterfly house and sports fields to name just a few, it seemed only fitting that on opening day the park's latest addition would be named in his honor.

And while naming the facility for Persinger was an obvious tribute to the director's 30 years of service to an appreciative community, there was nothing obvious or simple in solving the many design challenges posed by the project itself.

Set among natural prairie, an existing farmhouse, barns and farmland, the facility not only needed to fit in with its preserved rural surroundings, but also needed to cost-effectively provide much-needed programming space for a growing community.

"The community wanted additional programming space to alleviate waiting lists," said Sheavoun Lambillotte, superintendent of recreation for the district. "And they wanted a gymnasium they could use all day and year round because we had been sharing space with the school district. But the challenge was not to raise taxes and to generate revenue. We have a tax cap, so the trend is to build a facility which can sustain itself."

Not only did the final result yield a recreation center that met the community's recreational needs complete with revenue-generating bells and whistles, they did it with eye-catching curb appeal just under their $10-million budget and with a construction time of less than one year.