Portage Park

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Portage Park is the heart of the neighborhood that shares its name. Not just because of the shared name or because of where it is geographically, but because this quarter-mile square park is a living, breathing, gathering, meeting and competing place for many Northwest Siders. While park officials may boast of the Portage Park Youth Football League or the Little League baseball games that are conducted there, the truly impressive thing about Portage Park is what those coming to the place have made of it. While the park officially closes at 11 p.m., on a nice night (and even on many that aren't so nice), joggers, inline skaters, tennis players and families going out for walks hang on well past midnight. Each part of the park draws enthusiasts of all types: The open area on Irving Park between Long Avenue and Central Avenue is filled on summer weekends with picnickers and soccer players. On sunny days, the less-athletically inclined bask in the sun on a large hill along Long Avenue near the park's two swimming pools or toss horsehoes at the eight pits. Along Central Avenue is a football field that, once it's coated with ice, hosts hockey players and ice skaters from dawn until at least 1 a.m. on many nights. At the northern edge of the park are eight tennis courts, and two small, tremendously overworked basketball backboards hung on one tennis court fence. Encircling all the above day and night, are an army of joggers and skaters.