Bloomington aldermen on Monday approved spending $610,000 to install a new elevator at Grossinger Motors Arena on a 5-3 vote.
Several aldermen questioned whether the elevator was the best option to bring the venue into Americans with Disabilities Act compliance. Some questioned whether the finacial responsibility should fall entirely on the city’s shoulders.
“I think we all assumed the building was built to be ADA compliant and clearly it wasn’t,” Alderman Karen Schmidt said. “I know I am not alone in wondering what happened and are we out of recourse because it’s been 12 years (since the building opened)?”
Bloomington City Attorney Jeff Jurgens said he wasn’t optimistic the city could recoup any costs from the contractors which designed or built the arena.
“I think we could spin our wheels and try to go back and figure all of that out, but if I’m being perfectly honest, the thought that we are actually going to be fruitful in that effort, I’m not sure we are going to be,” Jurgens said.
The only elevator that’s outside areas restricted for concert performers is in the VIP area on the south end of the arena, one level below the main entrance. That forces patrons to either take the steps if they are able or leave the building and re-enter.
Alderman Jamie Mathy suggested an alternate route around the arena’s restricted area that disabled patrons could access might eliminate the need for an additional elevator.
“I was just thinking a couple of barricades and leaving a 40-inch wide path to get through would be a hell of a lot cheaper than $600,000,” Mathy said.
VenuWorks Finance Director Pat Ahlers said the area Mathy suggested be used for disabled patrons is typically part of the staging area for concert performers.
“I would actually invite you to come to a concert night to see how packed that area is, all of their show equipment, cases and cables,” Ahlers said. “When Brad Paisley comes in with nine to 11 trucks and buses, there’s a lot of equipment getting packed into the arena at that time.”
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office first told the city in 2016 about a multitude of ADA shortcomings at the venue and gave the city until the end of 2018 to get them resolved.
Bloomington Facilities Manager Russel Waller told the council the city has spent $346,000 to bring the former U.S. Cellular Coliseum into compliance and the cost of the elevator is twice the original estimate.
The city received no responses the first time it solicited bids for the elevator. It received one bid, from Felmley-Dickerson of Bloomington, the second time it requested bids.
Waller suggested a busy construction season and rising cost of steel through tariffs are possible reasons the cost was much higher than first projected.
Schmidt, David Sage and Mboka Mwilambwe voted against the proposal. Alderwoman Diana Hauman was absent.
Ice Center Video Streaming
The city council also unanimously approved an agreement with LiveBarn Inc. to provide online video streaming for youth hockey games at Pepsi Ice Center. There is no cost to the city.
Users would pay a subscription fee. Pepsi Ice Center Manager Michael Hernbrott told the council LiveBarn’s cameras would be on 24 hours a day, therefore providing additional security surveillance for the venue.
At the start of the meeting, City Clerk Cherry Lawson administered the loyalty oath to new City Manager Tim Gleason on his first official day on the job. He replaced David Hales, who left in November to become Joliet’s city manager. Steve Rasmussen had been serving as interim city manager. He has resumed assistant city manager duties.
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