A new issue could be emerging in the primary election for the city of Bloomington and Town of Normal as the pressure mounts to find a replacement for soccer fields along Ireland Grove Road which host youth soccer leagues and Bloomington High School students.
An FAA waiver for Community Fields near the airport runs out at the end of the year. The Convention and Visitor’s Bureau wants the community to build a multi-sport complex costing as much as 16 million dollars. Bloomington Alderman Scott Black, the city’s rep on the bureau, is open to a public-private partnership. He says something should be done because lots of families are affected by the impending loss of fields. "Between 3,000 to 3,500 families are affected . That's a big number and that's not just soccer. I also had people talk to me about cricket. Lacrosse is a growing sport. If we combine all the sports into one venue, we get the best bang for the taxpayers' dollar," said Black.
A multi-sport complex could be replacement
Black has been working behind the scenes, along with Kathleen Lorenz of the Normal Town Council, to make sure stakeholders are included in a proposal being put together by Developer Dave Stark for 160 acres east of the Mitsubishi plant, at the southeast corner of College Avenue and Wylie Drive. Kim tells WGLT she is doing a community needs assessment that includes talking with any potential user of what would be a multi-sport complex. She hopes to have something to present for community input within two weeks to a month.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau Sports Commission is working with Kim and has already completed a feasibility study which found a $16 million facility could generate a minimum of $10 million a year once it's completed and marketed for tournaments and other events including a potential car show.
Lorenz says the town is currently doing an inventory of all possible fields available in case they need to be used as a stop-gap measure for youth soccer until a more permanent solution can be found. Both Black and Lorenz admit any larger, multi-sport development would have to be a public-private partnership. "I think this is a wonderful opportunity to collaborate with Normal and I think the community needs to be part of that discussion so we'll make the best decision and it will be a robust conversation moving forward."