Peoria city leaders answer calls to citizens about Chiefs "bail out"

By Joe Bennett

April 28, 2013 Updated Apr 28, 2013 at 10:29 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- Sunday mornings, The Red Nose Gang on WOAM usually talks about American outdoor recreation.

This Sunday they are talked about America's favorite past time.

City Manager Patrick Urich and At-Large Councilman Garry Sandberg joined the Red Nose Gang and spoke with listeners about the city's plan to help pay for the Peoria Chiefs stadium.

Most of the callers wanted to know why the city is getting involved.

"It's a protection of that investment that we've already made,” Urich says. “And that's the most compelling reason that I see that we should be involved in this."

Urich says the baseball team intended to pay a remaining $1.2 million dollars in bonds back to the city through property taxes.

Now the city’s plan is to forgive the repayment to protect the investment of a professional ball park in Peoria.

According to Urich, "It currently generates sales taxes and HRA taxes for the city, so it's important to look at this as an investment that we made beginning in 2001."

Back then the city put nearly $3.3 million dollars into the stadium.

This Tuesday night, the city council will likely decide on taking over part of that repayment left in bonds at $150,000 annually over 8 years.

Councilman Sandberg agreed with the Red Nose Gang that this can be called a "bail out."

Another entity helping to cover the financial problems of the Chiefs is Bradley University.

The school pays an annual fee to allow Bradley's baseball team use the field.

Next year that fee will be raised from its current price of $75,000.

Bradley baseball head coach Elvis Dominguez also says the professional field is an investment that is worth the increase.

"It's a tremendous asset,” says Dominguez. “It's a great venue not only to play for, but it's great when you bring in kids and give them the opportunity to play in a stadium at a facility like this."

Caterpillar is also helping with costs through a 10-year deal for naming rights to what is still labeled O'Brien Field.

Caterpillar officials say that deal will only go through if the city does its part in bailing out the ball park.

If so, the Peoria Chiefs will still operate as a private entity, and the city continues to pay, no matter what the future of the Chiefs may be.

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