Louisville Slugger to back Peoria sports complex

By Audrey Wise

December 19, 2013 Updated Dec 19, 2013 at 10:46 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- The plan to bring a mega-sports complex to North Peoria could become reality much sooner than originally proposed.

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

The facility would include a 125,000 square foot dome, similar to the one in Pekin. It would also include 10 synthetic turf baseball and softball fields.

The complex would be located off Orange Prairie Road, near the Shoppes at Grand Prairie.

It would be directly behind the Carmike Cinemas and Apartments at Grand Prairie.

Louisville Slugger is known for their iconic wooden bats and are a huge part of baseball.

Dan Cunningham has been tapped to lead the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex. He said, "When you want to build a tractor you go to Caterpillar, when you want to build a baseball or softball experience you go to Louisville Slugger."

The project is funded by developer Mark Petersen and now a large portion from Louisville Slugger. And the company won't just be a name on the door--they expect to be very hands-on.

"This will be a great opportunity for the kids to come here to be some of the first in the country to try the latest and greatest innovation to help them improve their game, said Kyle Schlegel with Louisville Slugger.

Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said he has known about the concept for about two years. Now that the details are finally being worked out, he is beyond excited.

"This is one of those things that communities our size can only hope for. A development of this caliber, it's top notch," said Mayor Ardis.

The developer is asking the city for a $9.6 million bond, to be re-paid through a special tax on his properties.

"The special service area tax is a primary lien on the property so we would have to be paid back first if anything were to happen. The developer in essence is taxing himself to make this project go," said Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich.

Mayor Ardis believes the project has near-unanimous council support.

"I am very confident that this project is going to happen," said Mayor Ardis.

Not everyone is excited about the plan.

The new complex would essentially be in Tim Evans' backyard. Evans is skeptical of past city projects like the Riverfront Museum and Warehouse District revitalization.

He applauds the city for trying to bring in more money, but doesn't think this is the best way to do it.

"The city could absolutely use some influx of tourism, people, money, I mean just look at our budget for the year...it's not looking great again," Evans said. "I just don't think this is possibly the best way to spend our tax payer dollars."

Evans said most of his neighbors are also skeptical of the new facility and, until they get more information from the city, they will stay that way.

The project still has to go through the planning and zoning approval process.

A hearing is set for January 15 at 1:30 p.m. It will likely go to the full city council in February.

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