URBANA — The rehabilitation of the iconic pavilion at Carle Park — at least the third such project in its nearly 100-year history — has been completed at a cost of about $270,000.
Ironically, the structural changes to the pavilion are meant to keep people out of it.
"We put up wrought iron gates on the lower floor and the second floor so that kids can't climb up there and get in there," said Vicki Mayes, executive director of the Urbana Park District. "We had a lot of vandalism there, most of it related to damage to the blockwork, including people painting and spraying it and sticking gum onto the walls and urinating on it. So just to protect the pavilion long-term we have it gated now. It is beautiful. If you drive by there at night it's lit up and it's absolutely gorgeous. It looks like the gates were meant to be there all along."
Photos taken on Tuesday show spray-painting on the pavilion walls.
In an earlier effort to minimize vandalism, the stairs to the second floor of the structure were removed.
"We took the stairs out probably six years ago, just to discourage kids from going up there, but they climbed up on the outside anyway," Mayes said.
The park district spent about $100,000 on an earlier comprehensive renovation of the structure about 20 years ago, including a roof replacement, lighting and mortar and stone repair.
This time, in addition to the wrought iron and new lighting, security cameras have been installed and walkways around the pavilion have been improved. The security gates can be unlocked for special occasions, she said, but for the most part they'll be closed.
"It's an attractive historical feature in the park that people have really become attached to," Mayes said. "One of the things it's most used for is pictures at graduations and weddings and things."
Within six months the park district hopes to add wi-fi to the pavilion "so that people can come in and sit in that great place and connect with anyone," Mayes said.
The pavilion is believed to have been built around 1919 with money from the estate of Mrs. Margaret Carle Morris, who also had donated the land for Carle Park. Newspaper stories at the time said that a stone bandstand and shelter was to be erected at a cost of around $10,000.
"Whenever this was built — this is my speculation — it was built to be an attractive feature of the park," Mayes said. "It was built at a time when there were formalized features in parks like bandshells and formal gardens and pavilions."
In fact, the Carle Park pavilion was built around the same time that a larger, more expensive pavilion was erected at Crystal Lake Park.
"It wasn't intended to be any bigger than it is," Mayes said of the Carle Park pavilion. "There were restrooms at either end of it. Originally the park was to have tennis courts and basketball courts. Since originally that park was way out on the southern fringes of town it was to be an active-use park. But over time it evolved into a less-active park."