Robert Crown campaign hits $11 million raised.

For Immediate Release:                                            Contact:          Pete Giangreco

February 16, 2018                                                                           312-543-4097


Robert Crown campaign hits $11 million raised.

On track to reach stretch goal of $15 million by year’s end.

Friends of the Robert Crown Center (FRCC) announced Friday that the campaign hit the $11 million raised mark a month earlier than projected, and is on track to reach its stretch goal of $15 million.

“There is a tremendous momentum behind this project. Donors large and small see the potential to educate minds, build not just muscle but the confidence of our children, and bring all kinds of families together in Evanston’s New Crown Jewel” said Daniel Stein, President of Friends of the Robert Crown Center (FRCC), the 501(c)3 organization partnering with the City of Evanston and Evanston Public Library to build the facility.

A big year-end small donor push and two new Lead Gifts propelled the campaign to $11,123,998 in cash and commitments as of February 15.

FRCC is proud to announce a $250,000 Lead Gift from the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation, a well-known Evanston-based foundation focused on improving youth services and education at all levels. The Foundation was a major catalyst for the McGaw YMCA’s Sebring-Lewis gym and MetaMedia center, as well as the new Y.O.U. facility and dozens of other Chicago and Evanston causes. The other new Lead Gift came from a currently anonymous donor.

 “The Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation is the gold standard of philanthropic organizations and we are proud that the New Robert Crown project has won their support,” added Stein.

Stein also said while donors appreciate the creation of two brand new full sheets of ice, a new gym double the size of the current one, and Evanston’s first-ever publicly available turf fields, expanding educational and creative opportunities is what’s fueling much of the support at this point in the campaign.

The $46 million+ project includes a new branch library where neighborhood kids can receive tutoring and mentoring while expanding Internet access to families who don’t have it at home.

In addition, the new Robert Crown Library, Turf Park and Community Center will upgrade the pre-school, which serves over 100 Evanston families and will allow dozens more children to get quality, affordable child care close to home.

The campaign has successfully solicited 513 gifts from 452 families, businesses, foundations and organizations, including selling 190 personalized bricks at $500 each.

“Through gifts large and small, over 450 Evanston institutions, businesses and families, are saying one thing loud and clear about the new Robert Crown Library, Turf Park and Community Center – it’s happening!” concluded Stein.


$500,000 commitment from Wintrust bank

 Catherine B. Pratt EVP, Retail Banking | Wintrust Bank - Chicago, North Shore Community Bank & Trust  Evanston mayor Steve Hagerty  Ross W. Mathée, President – Skokie Regional Director North Shore Community Bank & Trust Company A Branch of Wintrust Bank  Raj Ghate, Friends of Robert Crown board  Lawrence Hemingway, Director, Parks, Recreation & Community Services  Dan Stein, Friends of Robert Crown board

Catherine B. Pratt EVP, Retail Banking | Wintrust Bank - Chicago, North Shore Community Bank & Trust

Evanston mayor Steve Hagerty

Ross W. Mathée, President – Skokie Regional Director North Shore Community Bank & Trust Company A Branch of Wintrust Bank

Raj Ghate, Friends of Robert Crown board

Lawrence Hemingway, Director, Parks, Recreation & Community Services

Dan Stein, Friends of Robert Crown board

Beacon Academy pledges $500,000 to Crown Center


By Sonja Nordahl on January 10, 2018 - 10:54am


 A rendering of the planned new Crown Center

A rendering of the planned new Crown Center

The fundraising effort behind building a new Robert Crown Center got a big boost today, with a $500,000 pledge of support from Beacon Academy, the Montessori-based high school located in downtown Evanston.

 A rendering of one of two planned ice rinks at the new Robert Crown Center

A rendering of one of two planned ice rinks at the new Robert Crown Center

Dr. Raju Ghate, treasurer of the Friends of the Robert Crown Center, the non-profit group raising funds to help pay for the new facility, says such landmark gifts have helped propel the new Crown Center "from a dream to a reality."

The Beacon gift will be spread over seven years. The school has also committed to renting significant portions of athletic and community space for the first five years with an intention to renew for a second five years.

 Beacon Academy head of school Jeff Bell

Beacon Academy head of school Jeff Bell

“Beacon Academy is proud to be a part of Evanston and proud to to fully participate in Evanston community life,” says Jeff Bell, head of school at Beacon, which is based in the Rotary International Building on Sherman Avenue. “This is a visionary project that will benefit all Evanstonians for generations.”

The gift will be recognized with prominent signage for the school inside the new facility’s gymnasium.

Lawrence Hemingway, director of the city's Parks Department, says the increased capacity at the new Crown Center will mean the city will be albe to add Beacon to the programming schedule while still fully accomodating all other user groups.

A year ago, Northwestern University made a $1 million pledge to the Crown project in return for a similar assurance of access to the facility.

Friends of Robert Crown was founded in 2016 with an initial fundraising goal of $3 to $5 million. So far it has raised $10.3 million and is aiming for $15 million.

The original Robert Crown Community Center was built 43 years ago, funded by a significant donation from the Crown Family. It remains Evanston’s most-used sport and wellness facility.

Construction on the new Robert Crown Center is scheduled to start next summer, with completion by fall of 2019.

The current building won’t be torn down until the new building is done.

Beacon Academy announces $500,000 pledge for new Robert Crown Center

Beacon Academy Announces $500,000 Pledge for New Robert Crown Center

School Also Commits to Multiyear Space Rental Agreement with City

EVANSTON, IL – (January 8, 2018) – The Friends of the Robert Crown Center have secured a transformative $500,000 capital commitment from Beacon Academy in support of the new Robert Crown Community Center, Ice Complex, Turf Fields, and Library.

Beacon’s sponsorship-level gift represents a strong statement of civic and community support by the independent Evanston-based Montessori high school. The gift will be spread over seven years, and will be recognized with prominent signage inside the new facility’s gymnasium.

In addition to their capital pledge, Beacon has also committed to supporting the new Crown Center by renting significant portions of athletic and community space time slots over the building’s first five years, with the intention to then renew for a second five years. The school will also use the new facility and park for students to participate in community engagement activities and public service projects.      

“Beacon Academy is proud to be a part of Evanston and proud to fully participate in Evanston community life,” said Head of School Jeff Bell. “This is a visionary project that will benefit all Evanstonians for generations, and we are excited to stand with the City and Library to support area families and strengthen our community.”

As a stipulation of their gift and rental agreements, Beacon’s leadership team required assurances that no other community groups or organizations which currently use the Crown Center would see their access or usage hours decreased in the new building as a result of Beacon’s usage. According to Lawrence Hemingway, Director of the City’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Public Services, the new facility’s increased capacity and improved features will enable the City to meet this requirement, adding Beacon Academy to the programming schedule while still fully accommodating all other user groups.

Friends Board Treasurer Dr. Raju Ghate praised the school’s leadership and stressed the inspirational effect of their participation. “We are so incredibly grateful for Beacon’s generosity. It’s landmark gifts like this that have helped propel the new Crown from a dream to a reality. This kind of giving inspires other donors at all levels. Families see these respected pillar organizations all coming together in support of a single cause, and they realize that this thing is really going to happen. We’re going to do this. All of us together, as one community.”

Beacon’s investment provides the latest evidence of the increasing momentum of the Crown project and the fundraising campaign supporting it. After establishing and far surpassing an early fundraising goal of $3 to $5 million, the Friends have raised more than $10.3 million, with an aim toward a new stretch goal of $15 million.

Friends of the Robert Crown Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization founded in 2016 to spearhead community fundraising efforts for the construction of a new Robert Crown Community Center, working in partnership with the City of Evanston, the Evanston Public Library, and many local athletic and community groups.

Beacon Academy is an independent school serving grades 9-12 with a curriculum based in Montessori principles and culminating in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. Beacon students experience a learning community that inspires self-motivation and personal challenge and celebrates intellectual and cultural diversity. The school occupies 22,000 square feet in the Rotary Building in downtown Evanston. For more information, visit

Youth Activity and our Community

The Importance of Youth Sports - For Our Kids and Our Communities

A Guest Essay From John Berkley and Rich Gallun
from the Evanston RoundTable 12/14/2017 9:34:00 AM

As the parents of children who have participated in organized sports in Evanston over the past 10-plus years, we’ve been exposed to the “new world” of the youth sports culture.  It’s a world that is much more competitive and demanding of time, money and parent involvement than the one we grew up in. The stakes are higher.  Kids - and their parents – want to make the top teams, get playing time, get noticed, maybe even get recruited.  The result?  Kids get priced out, edged out, burned out and they quit. Over 70% of kids quit all organized sports by age 13.

Why does it matter?  Because the impact of youth sports is so far reaching. Recent research shows that the benefits of participation in youth sports teams go far beyond health benefits.  Active kids who play sports - or participate in other extracurricular activities - do better in life.  

A 2013 study by the Aspen Institute called “Project Play” found that youth sports participation is critically important both from a public health and a personal success perspective.  Kids who are physically active are less likely to smoke, use drugs, get pregnant or engage in risky behavior. They have up to 40% higher test scores in school, and are 15% more likely to go to college.  

In his book “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” Harvard professor Robert Putnam documents how extracurricular participation and the development of “soft skills” lead to stronger outcomes over the long term. He writes: “Consistent involvement in extracurricular activities is strongly associated with a variety of positive outcomes… including higher grade point averages, lower dropout rates, lower truancy, better work habits, higher educational aspirations, lower delinquency rates, greater self-esteem, more psychological resilience, less risky behavior, more civic engagement (like voting and volunteering) and higher future wages and educational attainment.” 

While the pursuit can be sports, music, theater or any extracurricular activity, the important driver of success later in life is the sustained commitment to that pursuit.  In the best-selling book “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance,” the psychologist Angela Duckworth illuminates the power of “grit,” which she defines as perseverance and passion for long-term goals, a trait that can be developed over time through the right kind of guidance from demanding yet supportive parents, teachers and coaches. Duckworth cites numerous studies that highlight the importance of extracurricular activities – “but only for kids who participate in activities for two years rather than one.”  As Duckworth explains, “the key was that the students had signed up for something, signed up again the following year, and during that time, had made some kind of progress.”  Putnam cites one study that found that kids who are consistently involved in extracurricular activities were 70 percent more likely to go to college than kids who were episodically involved – and 400 percent more likely than kids who were not at all involved.

Evanston Township High School Athletic Director Chris Livatino finds a similar correlation, highlighting that “across every racial sub-group, students who participated in athletics earned significantly higher GPAs than those students not involved in athletics.”  Livatino also notes a small decline in participation in ETHS sports last year, and suggests that one explanation is that many sports require significant pre-high school experience, and that fewer kids, especially on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, are able to afford to these programs.

The decline in youth sports participation can be attributed to a number of reasons, but clearly money has become a major factor. Youth sports participation rates for those at the lowest income levels are about half of those at higher income levels.  In many sports, multi-season, tryout-based travel teams with professional coaches and high fees provide the highest probability path to making a high school team.

We at Evanston Soccer Association (Team Evanston and Eleven United) are committed to increasing participation in our soccer programs by partnering with the broader Evanston community to enable greater affordability and accessibility for all of our kids.  In addition to increasing financial aid, we are also committed to the ongoing training of our coaches so that they can better serve as positive mentors for our youth, and to investing in upgrades to Evanston fields and facilities.  With that in mind, we are actively involved in supporting the Robert Crown Community Center project.  Not only is the project critical for the strength and viability of own club and other sports organizations, it also offers the opportunity to foster more “free play” in the community.  We strongly encourage our colleagues, businesses and other organizations in Evanston to pitch in to ensure that the new Robert Crown Community Center becomes a reality so that all of our kids – and adults – have an equal opportunity at a better, healthier life.

Mr. Berkley and Mr. Gallun, both Evanston residents, are Board members of the Evanston Soccer Association

More than $265,000 raised by Evanston community


Over 200 people attended a Friday night cocktail party thrown by the Friends of the Robert Crown Center (FRCC), raising over $265,000 toward construction of the New Robert Crown Library, Turf Park and Community Center.

“Our community is coming together like never before to give our children and people from every part of Evanston the opportunity to learn, play and grow at the New Robert Crown Library, Turf Park and Community Center,” said Amina DiMarco, Vice President of the FRCC board.

Team Evanston/Eleven United Soccer, AYSO Evanston, Evanston Youth Lacrosse, Evanston Baseball and Softball Association and Evanston Field Hockey along with ERA Lacrosse organized the event. Sponsoring donations from a 23-member event host committee raised $205,000 of the total take. On top of that, the event sold 101 individual tickets at $150 each for $15,150, with paddling and other donations raising an additional $44,900 to reach a grand total $265,050 for the evening.

“Oak Park right now has 310,000 square feet of publicly available turf, while Evanston has none. The three turf fields at the new Robert Crown are desperately needed and will serve soccer, lacrosse, tackle football, flag football, girls field hockey and ultimate Frisbee communities for years to come,” said John Berkley, a FRCC board member who also sits on the Team Evanston/Eleven United Soccer board.

Andy Tinucci of Woodhouse Tinucci Architects narrated slides of the stunning, glassed-in design of the $43.5 million project, which includes a new branch library, expanded and improved child care center, a multipurpose athletic facility on the second floor which is double the size of the current gym, 3 turf fields totaling 230,000 square feet of safe, durable playing surface and two NHL size ice rinks.

ABC7 Anchor and Evanston resident Ravi Baichwal led a spirited paddle raise that allowed FRCC to easily beat their $250,000 goal for the event.

The current Robert Crown Community Center is Evanston’s most used public facility with between 100-150,000 visits on an annual basis. The new center with its new Evanston Public Library branch, added child care space, technology center and indoor running track along with nearly double the size of gym and ice facilities will see more that 200,000 visits a year, or over 10 million visits over the 50 year plus life span of the center.

“Those 10 million potential visits make the New Robert Crown Library, Turf Park and Community Center the most impactful Evanston project built in the last twenty years,” said Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty, who gave welcoming remarks at the event.

Friends of the Robert Crown Center (FRCC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit charitable organization formed in 2016 to spearhead community fundraising efforts, partnering with the City of Evanston and dozens of other athletic and community organizations on the project. The capital campaign that has already exceeded its initial $10 million goal and is stretching toward a new $15 million goal. 

Event Raises $265,000 for New Crown Center

From Evanston Now December 2, 2017:

By Sonja Nordahl 

Evanston residents came together Friday night for a fundraising event hosted by the Friends of Robert Crown. More than a hundred people attended the event at Smiley Brothers which topped expectations and raised $265,000.

Mayor Steve Haggerty was on hand as were several aldermen. Architect, Andy Tinucci went over the proposed design of the building and grounds, saying it will be a community hub for Evanston.  

The proposal includes a library branch, technology center, two ice rinks, an indoor running track, meeting spaces and multi-use community rooms.

The fields around the Center will be artificial turf. Team Evanston/ Eleven United, AYSO Evanston, Evanston Youth Lacrosse, Evanston Baseball and Softball Association and Evanston Field Hockey have all been clamoring for additional turf fields to extend the opportunities to play and practice outdoors. 

More than a thousand games are played a week on those fields in spring, summer, and fall. 

Resident Tim Davitt attended the event and has donated to the center saying he’s happy to support Evanston’s infrastructure. The current Robert Crown building isn’t adequate and hasn’t been for a long time, Davitt added.

Kelly Marcelle also donated but complains a pool is missing from the plan. “I regret there's no pool, all Evanston children need to learn to swim, since we live right by the lake.” 

Resident Matt Nells contributed, and says the “turf fields are absolutely necessary, we don’t have enough facilities especially under the lights.”

FRCC is a non-profit organization formed to help fund the $30 million rebuilding of the Robert Crown Center at Main Street and Dodge Avenue.

The group reached its initial goal of $10 million and has now upped the ante and is striving to raise $5 million more.

Campaign Director Mike Happ, says FRCC will continue holding fundraisers as they try to reach their $15 million goal, The next stage will focus on arts and culture as the building will house a wide range of cultural and educational resources.

The City of Evanston and the Evanston Public Library have also committed millions in funding toward the project.

The original Robert Crown Community Center was built 43 years ago, funded by a significant donation from the Crown Family. It remains Evanston’s most-used sport and wellness facility.

Construction on the new Robert Crown Center is scheduled to start netxt summer, with completion by fall of 2019. The current building won’t be torn down until the new building is done.

Excitement Builds for New Library Branch

From Evanston RoundTable, April 19, 2017:

Excitement Builds Around New Library Branch at Crown Center

By Mary Helt Gavin

The newest branch of the Evanston Public Library, part of the new Robert Crown Center, is in the active planning stage, with preliminary drawings, community input, and excitement and planning on the parts of the Library Board and staff.

“Things that you hope we would hear [from the community], we’re beginning to hear,” Library Director Karen Danczak Lyons told the RoundTable in an interview that included Library Board President Michael Tannen.

The new 128,000-square-foot Robert Crown Center will have two ice rinks; spaces for fitness, dance, yoga and other recreation; indoor and outdoor fields and courts; and – like only one other sports facility in this country – its very own branch of the library. “One would think that a library and a sports facility would be a natural fit,” said Mr. Tannen, “but there are only 20 in Canada and one other in the United States.”

“This will be the first branch that’s constructed like a branch,” Ms. Lyons said. During her tenure with the Chicago Public Library, she was on teams that oversaw the renovation or construction of 54 branch libraries.

Programming and Space

Although there will be discrete areas for its many planned programs, the building will be conducive to mingling, watching, and chatting. One concept is to have a walking track above and around one of the rinks. Other areas are for “warm-side viewing” of the ice activities – glass-walled lounging areas outside the rinks.

With the opportunities for exercise – sports, dance, fitness, yoga, etc. – and quiet intellectual pursuits, people can develop mind and body in one space, Ms. Lyons said.

Although the planned hours of operation of the center – 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. – are more extensive than those for the branch library, “We want to serve even when we’re closed,” Ms. Lyons said. She envisions kiosks to dispense books, CDs, and movies through the use of the library card.

All ages will be welcome. “Sometimes it will feel like it’s a senior citizens’ library, sometimes, a children’s library,” Ms. Lyons said. “We can push book stacks out of the way – and it will look like a different library.”

Carts with laptops can be rolled out for multiple users – rather like a cart with trays in a school lunchroom – and the laptops themselves may be available for checkout.

In summer, the sliding glass doors to the outside could be opened so patrons can step out into a reading garden, which could also be used for storytelling to children. The landscaping will add to the ambience of an active, light-filled, bustling center, she said.

Ms. Lyons also said one idea is to create a special Robert Crown Library card to welcome new patrons, which would be good at all the branches and the Main Library, as well.

Noting the proximity of Washington, Dawes, and Chute schools, as well as Evanston Township High School, Mr. Tannen said, “This will fill a gap on the west side.” He also said he believes the new center and library could attract Northwestern University students not only to use the facility but to volunteer there as tutors for student Library patrons.

Ms. Lyons said she hopes some of the programs offered through the Main Library, such as the free tax-preparation service provided by the Center for Economic Progress and the career counseling offered by National ABLE (Ability Based on Long Experience) Network would establish satellites at the Robert Crown Branch.

The tax-preparation program is an example of the Library’s successful partnerships, Mr. Tannen said. “Last year the volunteers – who prepare tax returns for families with incomes of less than $55,000 and individual with incomes of less than $30,000 – netted about $750,000 in refunds.”

 “We couldn’t do what we do without the community partners and the leadership of the Board and staff… We keep the focus on our families, on how we can help them. … We have a great partner with the City departments as well,” Ms. Lyons said.

Ms. Lyons sees the common spaces as more than access to the rooms that house various activities. “She sees the lobby as an agora,” Mr. Tannen said. “It’s a place for people to connect, converse,” Ms. Lyons said. Focusing on the wide stairway to the second floor, she said she envisions it as tiered seating for lectures or concerts as well as the more pedestrian access to the upstairs.

Ms. Lyons said the Library staff would work with the Robert Crown staff when Library programs could use extra space. “I don’t want to negotiate every week or have staff go hat in hand to beg space for at the last minute. There’s got to be room for everybody.”


“The Library Board felt so strongly we could build this library that it has committed to paying $2.5 million toward the building.  … We are building in a maintenance fund, based on the lifespan of the equipment.” Mr. Tannen said.

The City will issue all the bonds necessary, and the library will repay its share, Ms. Lyons said. Of course, donations on any level are still welcome, she added.

Michael Happ, Campaign Director for the new center, wrote in an email response to a RoundTable question on the timeline for the new facility, “The current intention is to begin construction in spring 2018 and complete all work by fall 2019.” 

A Bit of History

City approval for construction of a new branch library is an about-face from 2011, when the City closed the South Branch Library, and there was talk about closing the North Branch as well. Many people who had tried to save the South Branch opened the Mighty Twig, a privately run lending library at 900 Chicago Ave., which is now the site of the Chicago Avenue/Main Street Branch of the Evanston Public Library (CAMS).

The group that coalesced into Evanston Library Friends helped fund and staff the Twig. In 2012, the City hired Ms. Lyons as Library Director, and CAMS opened in 2013.

Like many other institutions in Evanston, the Library Board has decided to honor retiring City officials Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and Fifth Ward Alderman Delores Holmes.

“Although Ald. Holmes was at first not on board with saving the two branch libraries and creating a third, she came aboard so strongly that the Board decided to name one of the new rooms after her,” Mr. Tannen said. The Board also plans to endow a scholarship to study library science in the name of Mayor Tisdahl.

Mr. Tannen, whose happiness about the new Library branch, the Library itself, and the Library Board, was evident throughout the interview, said, “If five or six or seven years ago you would have told me we’d have a world-class Library director and could be building a crown jewel on the west side, I would have thought you were dreaming.”

Wintrust Bank Announces $500,000 Pledge for Reimagined Robert Crown Center

Multi-year Commitment Vaults Campaign Past $7 Million Mark

EVANSTON, IL – (March 23, 2017) – The campaign to build a new Robert Crown Community Center, Turf Park, and Library has secured a transformative $500,000 sponsorship commitment from Wintrust Bank. 

This major gift from one of the Chicago area’s most well-known and widely respected corporations provides the latest evidence of the project’s increasing momentum. The initiative has now officially raised more than $7 million in gifts and pledges, all before architects have even finalized a design for the new facility and park.

“We’re proud to give back to an organization that does so much for our community,” said Bill Lynch, president and CEO of Wintrust Bank. “As a community bank, we’re dedicated to bettering our local area. By supporting Robert Crown, we can give our kids another place to learn, have fun and grow. That’s something we’re really excited be a part of.”  

“We couldn’t be more grateful for Wintrust’s incredible generosity, vision, and leadership,” said Daniel Stein, Board President of the Friends of the Robert Crown Center. “With this gift, they have declared for all to see how committed they are to Evanston’s families and institutions. We look forward to partnering with Wintrust to strengthen our community for years to come.”   

Wintrust’s gift will be spread over multiple years and will be recognized with a prominent naming opportunity within the new community center building or the exterior park. The specific opportunity will be determined after the project’s architects complete their preliminary design. 

Wintrust Bank is a group of community banks located in Chicago and the northern suburbs, part of the larger family of Wintrust Community Banks spread across the Chicagoland area. The banking locations provide customized financial solutions for residents and businesses in Chicago, while supporting the neighborhoods each serves. Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender. A statement on Wintrust’s website summarizes the bank’s longstanding philosophy of community participation: “We believe a bank should be a good neighbor; friendly, helpful and generous. That bank should become an important part of the community, help it solve its problems and plan for its future." The bank may be visited online at and