Developers of the proposed Scheels Sports Complex at Legacy Pointe received a pledge from the District 186 Board of Education to reduce property taxes for 10 years in a vote at Monday’s meeting.
The agreed-upon letter of intent (LOI) between the two parties allows the developers to secure a banknote for the proposed $65 million project, which will include full-size basketball and volleyball courts, as well as multi-use artificial grass fields will be under a dome.
The complex will be located just off MacArthur Boulevard off Interstate 72. Scheels received the naming rights for the project last December.
The district receives a “preferential rate” for renting facilities estimated by school officials at $108,000 for 2,160 hours of use per year.
Board members Micah Miller and Erica Austin voted against the LOI.
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Superintendent Jennifer Gill said afterwards, while she wasn’t 100% in favor of the district doing regular tax breaks, “in this situation, they’re in a position to provide something that would take us years to develop and build with the same professional setup.”
“These fields will also be a game changer for our community.”
One of the developers, Dirk McCormick, was present at the meeting and was joined by Mike Murphy, CEO of the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, and Ryan McCrady, CEO and President of the Springfield Sangamon Growth Alliance.
“We’re glad we’re making progress,” McCormick said afterwards.
The complex is expected to host tournaments of 60 to 100 teams on weekends, which will generate about 250,000 new visitors along with about $30 million in new spending annually, local tourism officials said.
County officials said the complex would be a boon to the middle school’s athletic programs, particularly when it comes to practice, although games could also be scheduled there. Jason Wind, the Executive Director of School Support, previously pointed out that kids often practice late at night because of the schedules they can’t make time for the gym.
“We get something right back (in the LOI),” Gil said.
The cut will only be made on the 95-acre lot on which the sports complex will be built. Gill said the bigger cash windfall could come from development the complex could spur at Wabash Avenue, MacArthur Boulevard and Dirksen Parkway.
McCrady agreed with this assessment.
“Our intention with the growth alliance is not that the development only takes place in the sports complex,” he said. “We want to see the development of the sports complex throughout the community. If you look all the land between Scheels and Wabash Avenues and all the land along Wabash and Stanford and all the land at Dirksen Parkway and other places, those are places where you’re going to see development because of the sports complex.”
The vote, “a crucial step forward” for the developers, McCrady noted, was also a unique situation for the board. The public “shouldn’t be frustrated with the amount of time the school board is putting into this because this isn’t a deal we’ve seen before.”
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Miller reiterated that he wanted the sports complex to be a reality, but “it has to make sense on our part.
“To me, full tax breaks and having to lease the fields while we rebuild our own facilities and get back to the (negotiating) table with teachers and staff (about contract negotiations) just doesn’t make sense.
“I think they’re asking too much of us.”
Using Cedar Point Sports Center in Sandusky, Ohio as an example, Miller said the district could potentially lose anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million annually, depending on the complex’s valuation.
“It’s difficult to know how the accountant would value this operation because there isn’t another (like around here),” McCrady said. “The Illinois property tax system is unique in many ways. It’s also complicated.”
In early June, developer Steve Luker told The State Journal-Register that a flurry of activity could take place over the next two to three months, including finalizing naming rights and sponsorship deals, designing the project, issuing construction bids, and finalizing determination of costs. Luker said he also hopes to close the construction financing in that timeframe and kick the bucket by August or September.
It is also planned that the facility will be built in phases, with the outdoor area being the top priority.
The LOI is expected to be formalized and subject to further Board vote at its September 6 meeting.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.