Copyright 2017 The Pantagraph
The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Illinois)
BLOOMINGTON - The city of Bloomington would consider participating in developing a multi-sport complex only if it would pay for itself, but it has discussed the issue with Normal officials, said Mayor Tari Renner on Tuesday at his second town hall meeting this month.
Wilbert Davis, a retired Illinois State University track and field coach who has served on the Bloomington-Normal Sports Commission for many years, posed the question at the meeting that drew about 30 people to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts.
"We bring in a lot of revenue just on the sports that we currently have coming to Bloomington," said Davis. "By having a multi-sport complex we could bring in a lot of national tournaments to Bloomington-Normal and have quite an economic impact on the community."
Davis gave the example of a friend who pays $400 to play just one game of soccer at a sports complex elsewhere. There could be a variety of activities for a local multi-sport complex and at ISU and Illinois Weslyan University facilities, he added.
"The council has yet to discuss that issue," said Renner.
"Now (Normal) Mayor (Chris) Koos and I have had multiple discussions about it," he added. "City Manager Mark Peterson from the town of Normal and our (interim) City Manager Steve Rasmussen and I spoke about that actually the other day. There certainly has been lots of discussions, but there are quite a few issues."
A proposed site in west Bloomington is near the intersection of several interstates and the Crossroads Center, said Renner, adding, "Ironically, it happens to be in the (former) Metro Zone, which has been a subject of controversy between the city and town of Normal."
When Bloomington terminated, retroactive to Dec. 31, 2016, the 30-year-old agreement to share revenue and expenses in a commercial and industrial district on the west side of the Twin Cities, Normal stopped receiving $1.2 million in annual payments from the city.
Renner said that before any public discussion about a multi-sport complex could begin, "we would have ... to see harder numbers so that we could be sure that we could afford it and reap all of the benefits (Davis) so very eloquently said."
Renner agreed that such a complex could be a "significant" boost for economic development.
"But given our structural deficit (in the city budget) we have to figure out some way that project would actually pay for itself," said Renner.
In previous downtown revitalization discussions with developers, "we said there was not going to be one dollar of our general fund or any fund at all of our $215 million budget that was going to go toward subsidizing any developer or anybody else," said Renner.
"Those days are gone," said Renner of using public funds for such projects. "The thing is we were not going to spend any money."
Instead, "we were going to shave off some of their property taxes and some of their sales tax," he added.
Bloomington resident Donna Boelen said she has heard a lot of past discussion from aldermen and the mayor about economic impact, which she sees as the income generated for the city by development.
"But I don't hear any discussion about the fiscal impact, which I view as the cost," she added. "I would like to see the council look at the fiscal impact more heavily to say, 'OK, it's wonderful that we're going to get all of this income feeding down, but how many millions of dollars is it going to cost to build that and will it balance?'"
When it has a deficit, the city has to limit its spending to just those things that the government is responsible for, said Boelen.
"My fear is that the capital spending is going to stop and we can't afford that with crumbling buildings, crumbling streets," she said.
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