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Officials Hope 'Soccer Diplomacy' Thaws Icy Municipal Relations

Cristian Jaramillio

With the city of Bloomington and town of Normal embroiled in a dispute over the west-side Metro Zone, some say the sport of soccer may help thaw relations, similar to how ping-pong helped U. S. and Soviet leaders bridge differences in the early 1970s.

Katie Kim is a real estate consultant working with a developer on a potential west-side multi-sport complex that could include soccer fields to replace Community Fields, being phased out by the Federal Aviation Administration. Kim said "soccer diplomacy" should be given a chance.

"This project could really mend the departure, if you will, of that relationship and really mend it and still get the municipalities to come together because it is going to take both of them to make this project happen," said Kim.

Mark Peterson said the immediate need for new soccer fields and a proposal to fill that need might be just what both the town of Normal and city of Bloomington need right now.

"A multi-sport complex like we're talking about is low-hanging fruit, if we're all on the same page. I think it could be a huge community asset and I don't think it stops there. I think there are a lot of other things we can do together," said Peterson

He admitted it will take a couple of weeks at least before the temperature is just right among leaders in both communities to begin moving forward.

"Sometimes things have to hit rock-bottom before they get better. Maybe things will improve from here, who knows," said Peterson.

A feasibility study from the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors bureau indicates the $16 million project could bring in as much as $10 million annually, when it's complete. Last week, the two primary youth soccer organizations in the community--Prairie Cities and Illinois Fusion--announced they were merging under the pro Chicago Fire brand.

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Colleen has spent most of her adult life working the streets and beats of Bloomington-Normal for WJBC-AM where she won numerous reporting awards for hard news, feature writing, and breaking news coverage.
Willis is a Bloomington, IL, native. During his senior year at Bloomington High School, he finished third in the "Radio Speaking" division of the state speech contest, the only year he competed.
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