Governor JB Pritzker, along with state and local leaders and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR), announced on Wednesday that the City of Benld will receive a $600,000 grant to develop an 11-acre park on the former site of Benld Elementary School.
The city council voted in September to apply for the grant after receiving positive feedback on developing the site as a park. The city essentially is acting as the sponsoring agency for the purposes of applying for the grant. The Benld Sports Association will be in charge of the development project as well as responsible for ongoing maintenance and mowing.
Construction on the park facilities could begin as early as summer 2023.
The park is being developed on land formerly occupied by Benld Elementary School, which was destroyed by mine subsidence beginning in the spring of 2009. Community Unit School District 7 built a replacement school in Gillespie and razed the damaged school in Benld. After declaring the property surplus, the Board of Education reached an agreement with the City of Benld to transfer the property to the city for development as a park. Officially known as the Benld Family Sports Complex, the park will feature a baseball diamond, a softball field, a soccer/football field, a pavilion with picnic tables, a walking path and playground equipment.
Benld City Clerk Terri Koyne said an architect is donating his services to design the facility, eliminating a substantial cost for the Sports Association. The Association plans to use volunteer labor as much as possible to save costs.
Benld is among 118 projects throughout Illinois that will receive an Open Space Land Acquisition and Development (OSLAD) grant. OSLAD is a federally-funded grant program administered at the state level by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR). A second project in Illinois also receiving a $600,000 grant is the Village of Palmyra.