On East Randolph Drive this week you're likely to find a table and sign set up asking neighbors to "Save Peanut Park." A group of Lakeshore East residents recently discovered that the epic plan to convert Daley Bicentennial Plaza into Maggie Daley Park includes the installation of tennis courts in the small, oblong, technically-unnamed section of park space on the northeast corner of the park that residents affectionately call Peanut Park due to its legumeoid shape and the design of the walking paths connecting Grant Park to the lakefront and Lake Shore Drive. The group behind the Save Peanut Park project, lead by retired street performer and Lakeshore East resident Jon Mitchell, feel that tennis court structures would attract homeless and damage the usability of the park for the benefit of a few tennis players who will only make use of the expensive courts a few months out of the year, weather permitting.
Indeed, the Chicago Park District did say that their motivation behind the new Grant Park Skate Park, now under construction, was to move away from park land uses that only benefit a few people at once to more mixed-use concepts that can be used year-round. The Park District's stated reason for the inclusion of the new tennis courts in the Maggie Daley project was to avoid neighborhood outrage over the loss of Daley Bicentennial's several tennis courts. Mitchell counters that the demand for the courts has been overblown, and intends to show the Park District how unpopular the tennis courts would be by collecting written statements from residents and community members, claiming over 400 statements opposing the tennis courts had been collected so far.
Mitchell admits that they're a little late to the game, as the plans for the tennis court have been made public for over a year. The upset residents are only finding out now, he states, because the tennis courts were left out of neighborhood newsletters about the greater park project, and the huge scope of the "Disneyland"-esque park eclipsed the changes to the comparatively-small Peanut Park. To make up for lost time, the group hopes the number of statements they've collected in a short amount of time, as well as an organized presence at upcoming Park District meetings, will help them make their opposition clear before any construction work begins at Peanut Park, which is currently being used for materials staging for the rest of the park construction.
Chicagoans with thoughts on the matter are encouraged by the group to submit their own statement of opposition to the tennis courts at savepeanutpark.com.