Rockford Park District announces improvement plans, further endorses Hard Rock Casino

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- A half-million dollar renovation project is coming to Rockford at the Washington Park Community Center. Park District officials say this park was a top priority for improvements.

New park on the block

"I believe that this is going to be the best play area and play ground in the entire city of Rockford," says Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine. "The kids got to design the play area, so they're going to present that this evening."

At the Washington Park Community Center's Back to School Night, leaders shared the news of the $250,000 state grant. Thanks to a donation, the park district was able to match that grant.

"Out of school hours it's majorly crucial for these kids to have a place to go," says Washington Park's Nikki Lynch. "It's a place to feel safe at, to have fun, a place where they have positive adults pouring into them."

Back to school night was also used as a platform to express why the park district believes the Hard Rock Casino proposal should be the only one submitted to the Illinois Gaming Board.

"We're really excited, it was an easy decision to come out and endorse Hard Rock Casino," Sandine tells 23 News. "They want to invest in our kids, they want to invest in our neighborhoods, they want to invest in southwest Rockford."

Sandine told the Back to School Night crowd to call their representatives before the Monday proposals to let them know why the Hard Rock matters to the youth.

He says the Hard Rock Casino would bring expansion to Washington Park Community Center as they paln to open a music production program. He explains that they have access to big name artists that could teach Rockford's youth.

As the casino remains an option, leaders say they are just as happy to have grants and partnerships that allow them to add to the community, too.

"We try to create an environment that these kids can feel safe in," says Lynch. "They'll be able to not only have a good time, but they might have a mentor, they might find somebody that's more like an older brother."