A Town of Normal official projects local youth and adult sports teams would exceed a consultant’s estimates for what's needed to cover the proposed multisport complex's operational costs.
Those costs, however, would not cover the estimated $44 million price tag for construction. Local officials haven’t identified a developer for the project. It has largely been on the backburner following a report that a consultant produced last year.
Normal Parks and Recreation Director Doug Damery surveyed more than a dozen sports programs and school athletic departments in McLean County. He projects the sports complex would book more than 4,400 hours of rental fees for indoor and outdoor use in the first year, well above the 3,676 hours that consultant Sports Facilities Advisory recommended in year one.
“The groups that I talk to that I have identified as the biggest users of the facility were confident they were going to be able to pay the fees and I don’t think they were crazy rental fees,” Damery said.
The fees Damery used in his projections would range from $35 to $75 per hour, based on the size of the playing surface each spot would need. He said that would likely force some sports programs to raise their own participation fees.
He said youth soccer, lacrosse and cricket would likely be the most frequent renters based on their current space needs. He said youth soccer alone would exceed first-year projections for all outdoor sports.
He said the indoor turf space will be in high demand during the winter months as it could be divided into five spaces at once.
“There is no other facility in the Bloomington-Normal facility like this which allows groups to do things during winter training they were not able to do before,” Damery wrote in a report he had provided to City Manager Pam Reece and the Town Council.
Illinois Fire Juniors has been fundraising for a new facility with the impending closure of Community Fields in Bloomington. The Central Illinois Cricket Association has been clamoring for a regulation-size field for years. It currently plays on smaller fields next to Eastview Christian Church in Normal and along a detention basin in Normal.
Damery said those projections don’t include all the tournaments and other events that such a venue would bring, generating further economic development.
“The best part about this project is we have so much local demand we can really leverage this demand into a nice opportunity to create a facility that we can potentially bring in some major events,” Damery said.
SFA presented a report to officials from Bloomington, Normal and the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau last year that recommended a $43.6 million sports complex with 16 outdoor fields and an adjoining dome large enough for five more multipurpose fields or two baseball or softball fields that could be used year-round.
It projected a $9.5 million annual economic impact by the fifth year, largely through hosting regional tournaments.
The SFA report projects expenses at $1.3 million anually. Damery said based on initial projections the facility would bring in $850,000 through team rentals, and the rest of the balance could be covered through a combination of food, beverage and retail sales, along with naming rights and other sponsorships.
Damery said he believes the facility could reach that target as early as the second year and could exceed it once more clubs and other organizations see how they could use it.
“It is not unreasonable to see (lacrosse) participation numbers and eventually their field rental needs dramatically increase with additional exposure and improved facilities,” Damery wrote in his report. He added Illinois State University could use the outdoor fields for intramural leagues for soccer, flag football and ultimate frisbee and for club sports such as lacrosse.
Damery added those operational revenues would not cover the cost to build the facility. Bloomington and Normal officials have said they would need a public-private partnership to pursue it further. Normal City Manager Pam Reece recently told WGLT local officials plan to revisit the issue soon, in part because the consultant’s report would soon become outdated.
She has said several businesses have expressed interest in the project, but no one has committed to a public-private partnership.
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