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What Might Have Been

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In the Reader article in your October 17 edition ["Teachers or Touchdowns"], Barnaby Dinges was quoted as stating that Friends of the Parks was opposed to the new Bears stadium because we are "elitists" who "don't want anyone else enjoying their lakefront." Mr. Dinges's spin on Friends of the Parks couldn't be farther from the truth. Friends of the Parks's mission and goal is to insure that parks are the most used resources of the community, that parks are the heart centers of their neighborhoods.

Friends of the Parks supported building a new stadium off of the lakefront. We promoted a vision of restoring Soldier Field to its original U shape, open at the north end, as a multisport facility with a quarter-mile track, football/soccer field that could be used every day by the public for sports, fitness, recreation, and festivals. We envisioned Soldier Field as the city's public sports arena, to be used year-round by all Chicago citizens. We imagined high school football and soccer games, a quarter-mile track for daily fitness training as well as youth track-and-field meets. Our plan presented an opportunity for the general public to use a restored Soldier Field 365 days a year.

"Elitist" is the stadium's new status: ten days for Chicago Bears games, to benefit a privately owned corporation, while for most of the rest of the year the stadium and its field are off-limits to Chicagoans and visitors alike.

While Chicago will have to "bear" with this monstrosity, we at Friends of the Parks prefer to work in Chicago's neighborhoods, building coalitions to improve park programs and facilities and encouraging grassroots organizing. Our "elite" are the 2.9 million citizens of Chicago and 5.3 million residents of Cook County who pay for our parks and forest preserves. We will continue to serve those who look for a better use of public funds than a multimillion-dollar boondoggle that is only used very few days of the year by a small fraction of our population.

Erma Tranter

Friends of the Parks

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