Hopkins Park is one of DeKalb’s largest and most beloved community parks. The park boasts numerous trails, mature trees, prairie restoration areas, a basketball court, a sled hill, a seasonal ice rink, a playground, the Dee Palmer Bandshell, an enclosed park shelter, Hopkins Community Center, Hopkins Pool, and tennis courts. It is home to various special events throughout the year, such as the DeKalb Municipal Band Concert Series, Pumpkin Smash’n’Bash, Polarpalooza, and the annual Fourth of July Celebration & Fireworks Show, to name a few. Hopkins Park is also one of the original four parks inherited from the City of DeKalb at the District’s inception in 1935, named in honor of Judge Hopkins, who donated this 32-acre tract of land, which is undoubtedly a crown jewel within the DeKalb Park District system.

The park has undergone many transformations over the past 88 years, and that trend continues with some upcoming improvement projects at this park site.

This September, construction will begin with four dedicated pickleball courts replacing the two current south tennis courts. There will be new drainage, base, surfacing, and fencing with windscreens. The renovation includes a complete removal and rebuild. The two current north tennis courts will also see a complete removal and rebuild into two new tennis courts that will also be striped for pickleball. An ADA-accessible access path and seating will also be added to the court area. If the fall weather cooperates, the new courts may be completed in fall 2023; however, it is also possible that construction could bleed over into the spring of 2024.

No community park is complete without a playground. Playing on playgrounds is an essential activity for children of all ages. It provides a safe place to climb, swing, and play in ways they cannot at home or in backyards. Although playgrounds are inspected and maintained regularly, replacing aging playground equipment is crucial in keeping our parks safe and fun. Park Districts typically replace playgrounds every 15-17 years, and Hopkins Park Playground is roughly 18 years old.

The Park Board and DeKalb Park District staff invited residents to participate in public input meetings in August 2022 to select the final Hopkins Playground design concept. In March 2023, the DeKalb Park District received the news that they were approved to receive $507,000 towards the Playground Replacement Project as part of the FY23 Open Space Lands Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) Grant Program through the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The Hopkins Park Playground will tentatively be under construction during the fall of 2023 and spring of 2024, with a Playground Dedication and Grand Opening in the summer of 2024.

A Hopkins Pool renovation has also long been a topic of discussion amongst the Park Board and staff as they continue to manage an aquatic facility footprint that is nearly 90 years old! The District has been working with the Larson and Darby Group for several years to gather vital community feedback, including a Pool Advisory Committee over the summer of 2022.

After considering several pool design concepts and costs, estimated pricing for these plans ranged from $10 million to more than $16 million. Upon reviewing a 20-year financial outlook for the District, it was concluded the Park District could only fund a pool project between $8 million and $8.5 million, based on future capital needs and the estimated annual bond payment. A tentative “2023 Renovation Plan” was approved at the February 2023 Park Board Meeting.

Staff will continue working with the Larson and Darby Group on the subsequent Design Development and Construction Documents phases of the Hopkins Pool Renovation Project. Construction on Hopkins Pool would not tentatively begin until spring 2024, with the strong possibility of the pool being closed for the 2024 pool season and the renovated pool opening for the 2025 summer season (all subject to change based on unforeseen product availability and construction timeline).

“Our vision for Hopkins Park has always been to create an inclusive and dynamic community space that encourages healthy lifestyles and social connections. We’re excited to bring this vision to life by investing in capital improvement projects such as the new pickleball/tennis courts and a renovated playground that will provide residents with top-notch recreational amenities,” commented Executive Director John Shea, Jr. “We’ve also made significant progress on the Hopkins Pool Renovation Project that will make our community pool a vibrant destination for all. We take great pride in the strides we’ve made and can’t wait to share these updates with the DeKalb community.”

To learn more about upcoming capital improvement projects, view concept plans, construction timelines, and frequently asked questions, please visit dekalbparkdistrict.com/capital-improvement-projects or call (815) 768-6663.