Council members, residents weigh in on proposed sports complex

By WEEK Producer

December 19, 2013 Updated Dec 19, 2013 at 10:42 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Another huge project for the city of Peoria may come to fruition as soon as February.

Developer Mark Peterson aims to put a sports dome, fields and a hotel on Peoria's north side.

At a news conference Wednesday officials announced the complex would be called the "Louisville Slugger Sports Complex."

It would be located off of Orange Prairie Road directly behind the Carmike Cinemas and Apartments at Grand Prairie.

The facility would include a 125,000 square foot dome, and ten synthetic turf baseball and softball fields.

To pay for the $33 million facility, Peterson will essentially tax himself. He is asking the city for a $9.6 million bond to be repaid through a special tax on his hotel properties.

"Unless someone who lives in the city of Peoria is staying out at one of the hotels out by the project, it will never cost them a dime," said Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis. "This is going to be a real good project to drive new dollars into the economy and we are not going to have to raise taxes to take their place."

The community, on the other hand, has mixed feelings on the issue. Some had no idea the project even existed.

The community response is not a surprise to city officials.

Peoria City Council members believe the reaction will be positive once residents know more about the project.

But for various reasons, they said the last couple weeks were not the appropriate time to let the public know.

"If people feel like they don't have the information, well that makes sense because the information is just starting to come out," said council member Denise Moore.

"It's a project that they've been trying to put together for a couple years, and until they actually had contracts on the property to build it and contracts with their partners, there really wasn't anything to announce," said Ardis.

"They are doing their due diligence," Moore said. "They are putting pieces together in place as it's supposed to happen. I think it would be premature to come out with grand plans and have really no basis that this is going to happen."

City officials said up until now there had been little to no outreach to the residents near the proposed location but that changed Thursday morning.

"The developers have offered to reach out to any neighborhood groups or business groups, anyone that wants more information on the project or understand more about the project. They'll also be hearing at the planning commission," said Ardis.

The discussion is not over.

"I'm still concerned about the impact on neighbors," said council member Chuck Weaver. "I'm pleased that they moved the dome away from some residents in that area. It's also important that lighting won't impact the neighborhood in that area."

For residents who are concerned, council members said it is not too late. They said there is plenty of time for the public to have their input. They say it is not over until it is over and it is not done yet.

The project will be up for approval from the planning and zoning commission on January 15.

Council members said the earliest they will be able to discuss the final approval of the project in February.