The Prairie Cities Soccer League and the Illinois Fire Juniors have a new lease on community fields near the airport in Bloomington-Normal.
Fire Vice President Tim Koch said the three-year agreement with a potential option for two more years gives the leagues breathing room to find a new home.
"In the March-April time frame we'll be kicking off our capital campaign. We'll have more details about the amount we will need to raise then. But we know it will be substantial," said Koch.
The Central Illinois Regional Airport has wanted the soccer leagues to vacate Community Fields off Ireland Grove and Towanda Barnes Roads for some years because the fields are close to a runway.
Koch said the options in the fourth and fifth years are contingent on breaking ground for a new facility elsewhere. He said it gives some time for grass to grow once a destination is set.
Koch says one potential option is a multi-sport complex, though developer Katie Kim has not so far advanced that beyond conversations to build stakeholder support.
"If Katie Kim was able to continue to move her project along, we would love to be a tenant and love to be part of that solution," said Koch.
Kim has framed the project as a public-private partnership. She is the second business entity to promote it. But since the idea surfaced several years ago both municipalities have encountered flat local revenues, a state government financial crisis that caused state lawmakers to take away significant local sales tax money, pressure to cut the cities budget employment and services, and an economy that is 9,000 jobs below its peak workforce in 2010.
Koch said the leagues will need to begin a capital campaign regardless whether the multi-sport complex idea advances. He said a second possibility is the league buying its own land for fields that could be improved over time. The least favorite option for the Fire and PCSL, Koch said, is to revert to scattered site playing in fields around Bloomington-Normal.
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