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'The shack' is coming back in Gary-New Duluth

School children, grandparents and public officials gathered on Commonwealth Avenue to accept $100,000 from the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) which will be used to help build a new recreation center in Gary-New Duluth. (Photo By Naomi Yaeger)1 / 2
An architectural drawings of the proposed Gary-New Duluth recreation center. (Submitted by Wagner Zaun Architecture)2 / 2

School children, grandparents and public officials gathered on Commonwealth Avenue close to Stowe School in Gary-New Duluth on Monday. They accepted a $100,000 check from the Canadian National Railway Company (CN) to revitalize and transform "the shack."

"The shack" is the affectionate name given to a neighborhood clubhouse. Mark Boben, chair of the Gary-New Duluth Development Alliance, said he and his friends used to hang out at the shack when they were growing up.

"We are going to remodel it and it's going to become the Gary-New Duluth Recreational Center. It it will be something we can truly can be proud of," he said.

He says the new building will be nice enough to hold weddings and other events. He also wants it to have a more upscale name than "the shack." "We will see what the community says," he said.

Boben graduated from Morgan Park High School in 1972. When he was young, the shack was located across the street from the current building.

"It was a different building on the other side of the road with a potbellied stove. I spent a lot of time there playing hockey and skating, baseball, four-square, Little League, pickup games, you know what kids played back then," he said.

The shack closed in 2009, but children and youth still use the skateboard and basketball courts. "The skateboard ramps are not in the best condition, but there are always kids there. The basketball (pavement) is cracked."

Boben said that through many meetings, the community has shown a desire for recreational activities in the neighborhood.

The Gary-New Duluth Recreation Area is located adjacent to Stowe Elementary School in the heart of the St. Louis River Corridor. Plans for the $2 million project include renovation of the existing community center, a dog park, disc golf, a skateboard park, a soccer field, a sport court, ice skating, a community garden and a picnic area.

"I hope this little gift will allow you to progress a little faster," said Patrick Waldron of CN.

Dave Blazevic brought his daughter, Elly Blazevic, 9, to the Monday event.

"We grew up using the skating rinks here all winter long," he told the Budgeteer. "Every night you'd come over here ... Everyone grabbed a stick."

He said today's parents are more leery of letting their children just go out and play, but the new recreation center will offer supervised programs.

"It will be amazing for the kids to have someplace to go," said Brenda Fife, a 1969 Morgan Park graduate. She has a grandchild living in the neighborhood.

Mayor Don Ness said that the new recreation center will help put the neighborhood back on the map as a community of choice for young families looking for a place to raise children.

Naomi Yaeger

Naomi Yaeger is a freelance writer and the former editor of the Budgeteer. See her blog at