A newly merged youth soccer organization in Bloomington, the Illinois Fire Juniors, is announcing a $2.25 million fundraising campaign for new, upgraded soccer fields that will be needed when a three-year lease runs out for Community Fields along Ireland Grove Road.
Illinois Fire Juniors Board Member Jeremy Kelley said lead gifts from Advocate BroMenn, McLean County Orthopedics, and TPC Training amount to a combined $75,000 over the next three years for tournament sponsorship. That is considered money toward the capital campaign that will go to build larger fields on a yet-to-be-determined site.
"(We want) amenities such as bathrooms, electricity which we don't have at Community Fields now, maybe running water, maybe some better parking," he said.
According to Kelley, the best-case scenario would be a location that offers at least 100 acres.
Other youth organizations including the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington-Normal and the Bloomington-Normal YMCA and Easterseals have also launched capital campaigns. Kelley said he's not too concerned because he thinks the soccer complex offers something the other groups do not—economic impact through sports tourism.
"You look at Rockford. They have a tremendous facility up there. They had a tournament that got canceled last month because of weather and they estimated it was going to be a $1.89 million economic loss just from that one tournament," said Kelley.
Last weekend, Bloomington hosted a tournament at Community Fields with 160 soccer teams of at least 10 players each plus families. He says with a minimum per-visitor spending of $150, that translates to a lot of money spent locally.
The Town of Normal hired a Florida company, Sports Facilities Advisory, to study the feasibility of developing a local, multisport complex. The company is conducting research and market analysis, including the identification of potential sites; a financial forecast for a five-year period; and future economic impact. Results should be reported next month, according to a timeline given when the council approved the $47,000 agreement. (The Bloomington City Council voted in April to kick in $17,625 toward the study.)
Developers Dave Stark and Katie Kim have been meeting with stakeholders and have a site for a proposed complex on more than 200 acres north of the Crossroads Center between White Oak and Wiley Drive. Plans have not been formally proposed to either council in Bloomington-Normal.
Kelley says for now, Illinois Fire Juniors is launching its capital campaign solo but it welcomes discussion with any interested organization or public entities such as schools that need additional playing or practice fields.
"Ultimately if nothing happens, we're going to have to control our own destiny, raise money and come up with something ourselves. There are different options and different paths," Kelley said. "What we know is that on any of those different paths, we're going to need the money to step up and either build it ourselves or be that first, primary tenant for whatever group is running the facility."
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