OPRF vies for Dominican Priory campus

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Photo by Olivia Lonergan

The Dominican Priory Campus in River Forest

In a bid to offer expanded learning and activity spaces, OPRF has taken preliminary steps in purchasing more land and is hoping to purchase the Dominican Priory campus. On July 29, OPRF students and staff were informed that the District 200 school board had approved the letter of intent to purchase the campus, which went on sale in June. The letter of intent does not mean that the school will receive the property but that they are interested in purchasing and open to negotiations with Dominican. The campus is in River Forest, 2.3 miles away from OPRF. It is approximately 7.6 acres of land and is surrounded by athletic fields rented by Fenwick High School.

Since Oak Park does not have much available land for purchase, the prospect was very exciting to the school, said Karin Sullivan, OPRF’s director of communications. “We’re such a land-locked campus, which has really been problematic when we talk about the different facility needs that we have.” The problems with limited space to expand have strongly impacted sports.

The next phase of Imagine OPRF, which has yet to be approved by the board, plans to improve athletic facilities. Athletic Director Nicole Ebsen says the details of this plan have not been finalized yet.

At times, OPRF has more sports than available facilities, Ebsen said.

She said the athletic department will “take any space that we can get, because we can obviously always utilize that opportunity to enhance what we’re already doing.” The issue primarily comes into focus with the practice times after school.

With many teams vying for the ideal after-school slot on the two outdoor fields, field space can become an issue.

“It’s not that we don’t have the space (for teams to practice), it’s just the after-school space,” Ebsen said. Many teams want to practice directly after school, so students don’t have to go home in between the school day and their sport.

Many student-athletes have noticed scheduling issues in terms of field space. Bridget Lynch, a junior on the field hockey team, describes the hectic nature of the fall season and says that often three girl’s field hockey teams are practicing on the fields, along with boys’ soccer. This after-school jam for field space creates some challenges for Lynch’s team.

Along with limited field space, games have also become an issue. “We don’t always have that many home games… and our practices get cut short because of other team’s games.” Families of athletes who wish to support athletics at home games have also been impacted by this. “It is always fun to have fans and family watching and supporting you so it is hard when they can’t make it,” Lynch said. “Our (away) games can sometimes be 45+ minutes away and some people just don’t have enough time in their day to come.”

The priory campus may be the solution sports teams have been looking for. If the campus was acquired, “it would definitely relieve the overlap in scheduling, for sure,” Ebsen said.

However, plans are at a standstill until Dominican approves the offer. “Until we know we are going to be the purchaser, we are not really making plans,” Sullivan says.

She explains that while “athletic spaces are a priority,” it is too soon to know what the school plans on doing if they receive the campus. There is no current timeline available for this development.

Fenwick has expressed interest in the property, and it is unclear if other entities have also submitted letters of intent. Concerns have been raised by River Forest trustees about the zoning of the land, since for-profit institutions could provide additional tax revenue. Ebsen has toured the property, and Sullivan said that “if we were to reach a legally binding purchase agreement, we would have the right to have a variety of studies done before closing.”

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