Ty Warner Park in suburban Westmont is a spectacle of public land. Pristine, natural and family friendly. And when it comes to the name, it is now also all Tyed up, despite the fact that the park's wealthy namesake is a convicted felon and the government wants him in prison.
Ty Warner pleaded guilty to federal income tax evasion, and even though he could spend most of the next five years in prison, the park in his name will still be there when he gets out.
That is because Ty Warner's money paid for development of the park and because Westmont park officials promised to keep it named after him as long as he lived. The 36-acre park, the largest in the west suburb, features ball fields, courtyards, a garden gazebo and special walkways. It is also located across the street from Ty Warner's corporate headquarters, home of the Beanie Babies that have made him one of the wealthiest billionaires in America. Despite pleading guilty to stashing $24 million in Swiss bank accounts and Warner's federal sentencing next month, Westmont has no plans to scrap his name from park signage.
"Without (Warner's) donation between 1998-2000, the residents of Westmont would not have the quality of park we do today," says parks director Ron Gunter, who doubles as mayor. "At first, Mr. Warner did not want his name on the park, but the park board convinced him to allow us to call the park after him. Once we had his blessing we entered into an agreement that the park can be called Ty Warner Park and all sign art work was approved by Ty. The agreement also committed us to maintain the name while Mr. Warner was still living."
Indeed, according to Westmont's budget, $19,000 in tax funds are about to be used for a new sculpture in the park. According to the agenda for Wednesday night's park district board meeting, under unfinished business it is called the Ty Warner Bronze Statue.
Westmont Park District officials insist that even though the sculpture project is called "Ty Warner Bronze Statue" it will not be a statue of Warner himself. They say it is going to be a pair of children holding a Beanie Baby.