Who’s behind this plan?
The Reclaiming First steering committee includes board/council members, chief elected officials and staff leaders from the Rockford Park District, Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, City of Rockford, City of Loves Park, Village of Machesney Park, Village of Cherry Valley and Winnebago County. Additionally, as needed, the steering committee has benefited from the insights provided by citizen volunteers and industry experts.
Why are amateur sports important?
Amateur sports tourism at Sportscore One and Two currently accounts for $15.25 million in income for the Rockford Region that would otherwise not occur. Local municipalities receive an estimated $1.8 million in the form of direct additional general fund tax revenue from amateur sports tournaments. Further, income generated from amateur sports tournaments means local citizens are able to use these facilities at reduced or no cost.
Are there benefits from “Reclaiming First” for local residents?
Local residents would indeed use and benefit from these improvements in sports facilities. Even now, the use of Sportscore Complexes is made up of about 50% “local” residents. They use the existing facilities during weekdays and participate in tournaments on weekends. There are about 1000 traveling teams in our area playing soccer, softball, basketball, and volleyball, and when these teams participate in tournaments right here at home they can do so without the costs associated with traveling to other locations. One weekend tournament can cost a family up to $1,000. Many of our families travel to four or more tournaments annually.
We see use by visitors and tourists as enhancing the Park District’s ability to achieve results affordably for residents by using facilities at times when residents are not fully utilizing facilities, such as weekend tournaments. It is our full intention that local residents will most certainly benefit from these world-class recreation amenities while making the Rockford Region the amateur sports destination of the Midwest.
It remains the project goal to have as much of the funding as possible paid for by non-local participants and non-local sources.
Why do we need to improve our facilities?
The Rockford Region has long been recognized as a leader in the amateur sports market. However, since 2007, the region has experienced an annual 11 percent decrease in amateur sports tournaments resulting in an annual loss of $1.4 million for the region. The Reclaiming First study attributes this loss to the Great Recession, deficiencies within current facilities and the lure of high-quality facilities in other communities. Additionally, and importantly, current facilities are no longer able to meet the needs of our citizens.
What’s wrong with our current facilities?
The study identified four major deficiencies in the region’s current facilities:
The region does not have adequate facilities to host indoor sports such as basketball, volleyball, wrestling, cheer, dance, etc.
The region does not meet current industry standards for artificial turf and lighting. Artificial turf provides a more reliable playing surface that is less affected by weather and enables a longer playing season, while lighting extends playtime for outdoor sports in dusk and darkness. At least one significant tournament has left the region due to the lack of lighted fields and a second has indicated it is considering leaving if the situation is not resolved soon. Currently, there is only one soccer field, at Sportscore Two, that is lighted. There are no artificial turf fields in Winnebago County.
Instances of flooding at Sportscore One have increased in frequency over the last ten years by 102 % and in duration by 75 percent. The flooding has not only resulted in added annual repair costs but has affected the regional economic impact from actual loss of tournaments, which declined by 11 percent in the last four years alone.
Our current indoor soccer space at the Indoor Sports Center (ISC) is at capacity, and does not meet the needs of citizens or provide opportunities for the region to host tournaments that draw visitors.
What are the proposed improvements?
Create flexible, hard court, multi-sport/court indoor facility:
The indoor facility would feature 8 basketball/16 volleyball interchangeable courts. The air conditioned facility would be able to host volleyball, basketball, wrestling, cheer/dance, pickelball and other hard surface sports events, along with extreme skateboarding, rollerblading and biking. The study examined and proposes the former Ingersoll building located at 301 S. Water St., Rockford be used.
Modernize Sportscore Two, Retrofit Indoor Sports Center:
At Sportscore Two add three artificial and lighted multi-purpose fields, six new grass soccer fields. The “soccer” fields could also be used for other sports such as rugby and lacrosse.
Indoor Sports Center – as basketball/volleyball would be located at the downtown facility, the current portion of ISC dedicated to volleyball/basketball would be retrofitted to include a second indoor field for soccer.
The Indoor Sports Center should expand to include a total of five indoor soccer/artificial turf fields. A bold move, this would allow the region to own the soccer market 12 months a year. Such a facility would be without peer.
Lease or purchase the parking lot at the adjacent Riverhawks Stadium to accommodate additional tournament traffic at Sportscore Two, thus reducing overall cost by not having to construct new parking lots.
Improvements at Sportscore One:
In 2013, Sportscore One will celebrate 30 years of service to the Rockford community. The Rockford Park District is planning a series of capital repair and replacement upgrades to modernize this workhorse of a facility that “started it all”.
How will it be financed?
The report notes that the benefit of the project would be realized throughout the region (Winnebago County) and that any funding solution should be regional in nature, and principally paid for by non-local visitors who would use the facility. Property taxes and general sales taxes would not be increased to fund the project.
There are a number of proposed funding sources for the improvements including grants and bonds. A countywide increase in the hotel tax in an amount not to exceed 2 percent is proposed. To date, the State Legislature has passed a bill authorizing local municipalities to allow Winnebago County to implement this tax, the Governor has signed this bill. This would generate $15 million for repayment of bonds.
Additionally, the financing plan calls for the use of
$7.1 million in grant funding from the State of Illinois
$350,000 per year from the Rockford Park District generated from the facilities (resulting in $4.75 million)
$1 million in charitable contributions
$200,000 per year from naming rights
Additional sources that could be accessed include
Illinois Park and Recreational Facility Construction Act funds. The Rockford Park District will apply for $2 million in funding from this grant program.
Illinois Bureau of Tourism, Tourism Attraction Program grant fund. The Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau will submit a grant application seeking up to $1 million in funding.
Long-term charitable contributions, contributions from local municipalities, and additional private funds.
What is the benefit to the community?
Currently, citizen demand exceeds capacity at our existing facilities. The proposed improvements and additional facilities would serve and meet local citizen needs. The additional economic impacts resulting from the proposed improvements include $8.8 - $16.5 million in new value-added income, $1 -1.9 million in new tax revenue and preventing further loss to the community estimated at approximately $500,000 annually. The project would support 210 construction jobs and up to 250 annual new year round full time equivalent jobs.
How much will it cost to build and upgrade these facilities?
Developing a new indoor venue at the former Ingersoll building will cost approximately $17.5 million. Modernizing Sportscore Two and addressing the parking situation would cost approximately $18 million. Expanding the Indoor Sports Center to ﬁve indoor ﬁelds would cost an additional $9 million. Additional funds will be spent upgrading Sportscore One.
How much will it cost to maintain?
The study notes that direct revenue from hosting tournaments will cover the operating expense; this is the case at the existing Sportscore One and Two facilities. Additionally, the Rockford Park District has committed to covering any operational gap, should it ever exist. However, based on the business plan this is not anticipated.
The expense of debt service incurred for the proposed improvements would create an annual gap of approximately $2.5 million.
Who will promote the facilities?
In keeping with its current partnership with the Rockford Park District, the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau could be charged with promoting the venues to non-local user groups/tournament organizers. Funds for marketing the facilities are built in to the overall project budget.
What is the competition doing?
Overland Park, Kan.: The new 96-acre park attracted the Olympic Development program away from the Rockford Region, resulting in the loss of nearly 2,000 players over a two-week period. The facility provides 12 lighted, artificial turf soccer fields with benches and cooling system; outdoor basketball and tennis courts; on-site restaurant, on-site parking, 1,100 square feet of meeting space and a skate park.
Grand Park, Ind.: The under-construction 370-acre Grand park facility will feature 26 outdoor baseball/softball fields and 32 fields for other sports such as soccer, football and lacrosse. Eight baseball and eight soccer fields are to be installed with artificial turf. It will contain 52 miles of trails connecting the complex to surrounding park and recreation areas.
Wisconsin Dells: A 90,000 square foot indoor sports dome can be configured to handle 16 volleyball courts, 10 basketball courts, 4 indoor soccer fields, 2 softball fields, an indoor track, an indoor golf driving range or 32 wrestling mats.
What do local sports teams think?
Local sports team leaders, along with public school district sports officials, are excited at the prospect for more up-to-date facilities. They recognize that increased competition is drawing tournaments away from the Rockford Region and believe investment is necessary to retain our amateur sports reputation, while providing training and competition facilities for local sports teams/players.
What is our current hotel tax rate? How do we compare?
In the City of Rockford, a guest pays a 12% tax at check out; this is made up of a 6% state tax, 5% local hotel tax and 1% local redevelopment tax.
Tax rates in other communities: Overland Park, KS – 17.65%, Chicago – 16.4%, Peoria (within hospitality district) – 13%, Commerce City, CO – 12.35%, Carbondale/Collinsville, IL – 14%, Galesburg – 13%, Quincy – 14%.
When could construction begin/facilities be open?
Ideally, construction would begin in late 2013 with opening in 2015 for the Ingersoll complex and 2014/2015 for the improvements at Sportscore Two and the Indoor Sports Center.
The steering committee has obtained resolutions of support from several area city/town councils, Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, Rockford Area Economic Development Council, Rockford Park District, Rockford Hotel/Motel Association, Rockford Chamber of Commerce and the Winnebago County Board. These resolutions demonstrate broad, regional support for the initiative.
The Winnebago County Regional Tourism Facility Board (WCRTFB) will continue to guide the project. The WCRTFB will be made up of any local municipality in Winnebago County that authorizes the County to implement the 2% tax, plus RACVB and the Rockford Park District. For more information about this board visit the rockfordparkdistrict.org website.