Public-Private Partnership Lacking To Establish Sports Complex

May 31, 2017

File photo of the possible site of a sports complex and associated development, near Wylie Dr. and a closed section of Hovey Ave. in Normal.
Credit Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

There's continuing forward momentum  in Bloomington-Normal toward creating a multi-sports complex. The idea could make good economic sense according to Town of Normal City Manager Mark Peterson. However, Peterson said he wouldn't use the term "public-private partnership" to describe the effort.

"I was in two meetings this morning on this very topic. It's certainly exciting, but it's complicated," said City Manager Mark Peterson during an interview during Sound Ideas. "I think there are tremendous opportunities in youth sports and  in sports tourism in general. It is a growing industry. It certainly provides a hedge against swings in the national economy."

The tourism dollars, and the associated taxes collected at restaurants and hotels, can offset flat to declining sales taxes in the community. Some communities have focused their entire economic development strategy around sports tourism.

"It's going to take a big public investment. And that's the struggle. Is the timing right for that? Other say 'absolutely it's right, that we need economic activity and economic development more than ever.' But we also have financial challenges. Our sales taxes are lagging and so elected officials will ultimately make this decision. It will be a difficult one." 

File photo of City Manager Mark Peterson at a Town of Normal Council meeting.
Credit Cristian Jaramillo / WGLT

Peterson said the public investment could be $20-30 million. He said the project is creating opportunities for private investment. A May 19 Sound Ideas interview with real estate developer Katie Kim with the Kim Group, representing landowner Dave Stark, pegged the final value of the multi-sports complex and associated development at $50 million. Peterson said the town has not formally been asked to contribute financially to the project. 

"The idea is what kind of return will that generate for many years into the future," said Peterson. We've got to nail some of those details down. But the conversation is taking place and I think we'll have some answers in the next 30 days or so."

Peterson said he's glad the conversation is taking place. 

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