Ray McGury—Someone You Should Know
Since the early 1990s a portion of the Naperville Park District’s annual tax levy (about five percent of a residential tax bill) has been used exclusively for capital improvements to the park system. In 2016 the Naperville Park District celebrated its semicentennial anniversary with eleven capital improvement projects—repair or replacement of buildings that exceed $10,000 with a minimum three-year life cycle—including an 80,000-square-foot fitness space, the Fort Hill Activity Center. As executive director of the park district, Ray McGury was instrumental in bringing these projects to fruition. Naperville magazine recently spoke with McGury about these improvements and the legacy he will someday leave behind.
There have been almost a dozen new building initiatives, most noticeably the Fort Hill Activity Center. What is offered at this new facility?
Naperville residents are very interested in health and wellness. Whenever we surveyed the community, a desire for indoor recreation space consistently came up in the top three requests. I’ve lived here since 1985 and have always wondered why we never had an indoor facility like this.
I couldn’t be more excited about Fort Hill and what it brings to the community. There is something for everyone here and it’s all under one roof. We have a huge gymnastics room with a foam pit, gym space for basketball, volleyball, and pickleball, an indoor track, exercise studios, fitness space, an indoor playground with childcare, and a café. This facility enables us to schedule programs based on the needs of the community, and we no longer have to work around space availability in other locations. Among other things, it has enabled us to offer a much larger indoor basketball league.
Another aspect I’m really proud of is that Fort Hill really opens up local opportunities for special-needs programs. It’s also a great place for our seniors to come and not only exercise, but socialize as well.
Fort Hill is a place that really brings the community together. The other day I looked around the facility and saw a special-needs group playing floor hockey, seniors congregating and having coffee, people of all ages working out in the fitness room, and moms walking the track while their children were cared for in the play area. It tugged at my heart. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Another project included tearing down the Barn and replacing it with a maintenance facility. How does this benefit the community?
The Barn had exceeded its lifespan and was going to need extensive upgrades. The whole area of Knock Park and the garden plots are a major hub in Naperville—they are the most-used parks in our system. This centrally located facility will enable us to better maintain these and other nearby areas, including Garter and Pioneer Parks.
Prior to becoming executive director in 2008, you served the community first as a Naperville police officer and then as the Bolingbrook police chief. What inspired you to change careers?
I have always had a passion to serve, and I love the Naperville community. I raised my family here and was heavily involved in the park district when my kids were growing up. Back in 1996, I ran for the park district board and lost. When the board offered me the job in 2008, they were going through some tough times and were looking for more of a manager and leader, not necessarily someone with a degree in parks and rec[reation]. I accepted and never looked back. There are days I miss law enforcement; I did it for 28 years. But every day is an interesting day at the park district. I feel so much gratitude for what I am doing. I am especially grateful for our Board of Commissioners who serves the community without pay. None of this gets done without them.
More details about park district facilities and programming can be found at napervilleparks.org.