Coach, city voice opposition to sale of Peoria Stadium

By Anna Yee

May 23, 2013 Updated May 23, 2013 at 10:48 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- This is where Bob Smith's football career all began, at Peoria Stadium.

Smith is now a faithful fan, after years of playing on and coaching local teams.

"This became kind of the place in Peoria," said Smith.

He says the field helped keep Peoria's youth on the right track.

"Those kids that were cheerleaders or band members or players, they learned many things than just how to play the sport," he said. "Racial lines were pitched. Social economic lines were pitched. You depended on one another, and it was a team thing."

But the stadium and all its history could be no more.

Earlier this week, District 150 school officials confirmed that Walmart is showing interest in building on the land.

The Peoria Park District leases the surrounding sports fields and diamonds and so far, has no plans to give them up.

"Being situated on War Memorial Drive, that is a wonderful spot for a real active park," said Bonnie Noble, Executive Director of the Peoria Park District.

Third District City Councilman Tim Riggenbach says his constituents are overwhelmingly against commercial development, and no decision will be made without their opinion.

"I've been assured by our school board officials," said Riggenbach. "I've talked to President Crawford a couple of times on this that they're plan all along was to have public input on it. So, I respect that, and I think that's the proper channels as a city to go through."

No formal discussion has taken place yet about the future of Peoria Stadium, but financial upkeep is likely to be a central topic among all involved parties, including the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

"Whatever it's worth, they own it, and it's an asset," said former Coach Smith. "If they sell it and pour it down the sinkhole, and it's gone in 5 years, it really won't have meant as much will it?"

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.