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Olympics threaten Collins gym

[UPDATE: Chicago 2016 has cancelled its participation in the Lawndale town hall meeting – see Newstips 2.0.]

Will the 2016 Olympics force students in North Lawndale to give up their only high school gymnasium?

That’s one of the questions to be raised Tuesday, when representatives of Chicago 2016 and No Games Chicago meet publicly for the first time on a panel at a town hall sponsored by the Lawndale Alliance.

Lawndale residents only recently learned that Olympics planners intend to demolish the gymnasium of the Collins high school campus to make room for a $37 million, 6,000-seat indoor bicycle track in Douglas Park, said Valerie Leonard of the Lawndale Alliance.

The Collins school building, which houses the Collins Academy High School and a campus of North Lawndale College Prep, is the only building in North Lawndale that was built as a high school, Leonard said. Other high schools in the community share campuses with grammar schools and use park facilities for physical education and sports.

“When push comes to shove, it’s never the kids’ interests that come first,” she said. She’s concerned that, with sanctions recently threatened for the struggling North Lawndale College Prep, the high school building itself could be in jeopardy.

Chicago 2016 did not respond to a request for comment.

Chicago 2016 neighborhood director Arnold Randall will join Tom Tresser of No Games Chicago and 24th Ward Alderwoman Sharon Dixon at the Lawndale town hall meeting, Tuesday, May 12, 6 to 8 p.m. at Dvorak School, 3615 W. 16th.

The Olympics town hall is the first of three planned for this month by the Lawndale Alliance. On Tuesday, May 19, representatives of local nonprofits will discuss the foreclosure crisis and what the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program will mean for the community. On the next Tuesday, May 26, Leonard will give a report from available information on the seven TIFs impacting North Lawndale.

After agreeing to participate in the town hall meetings, the city’s Department of Community Development recently cancelled its participation, Leonard said.

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