Sunday, November 27

Business leaders share support for proposed Mattoon Sports Complex | Government and Politics

MATTOON — Business leaders have voiced support for the proposed $66 million Mattoon Sports Complex and its economic development potential.

That support was among the public comments and questions that were shared after a presentation on this complex at the Mattoon City Council meeting Tuesday night in Burgess-Osborne Auditorium.

James Rieck, franchise owner for Express Employment Professionals in Mattoon, said he had wondered how the complex might affect property taxes but has since been pleased to hear that this project’s financing is designed to not place burden on the community’s residents.

“It’s for the good of the community. It’s for the development of the community,” Rieck said.

John Hansen, managing director for IRR corporate and public finance, helps give a presentation on the proposed Mattoon Sports Complex at the City Council meeting Tuesday night in the Burgess-Osborne Memorial Auditorium.

Mattoon-based Rural King has offered to donate 96 acres for development of the complex near the southwest corner of Illinois Route 16 and Interstate 57. The development area would total 150 acres, with indoor and outdoor sports components on the 96 acres and with hotels, restaurants and stores on adjacent land owned by Rural King.

Prospective developers have said the complex would be owned by a planned nonprofit corporation, not the city; and that the city would not be the issuer of the $49.4 million in bonds for the project

The bonds that would be paid off over 30 years with new property tax, sales tax and other revenue generated by the development, not existing revenue. Other funding sources would include donations, $10 million; grants, $4 million; and a bank loan, $10.4 million.

Mattoon resident Brian McMichaels said he feels that Rural King should fund the project itself, and that the city should prioritize improving its aging roads and water infrastructure over pursuing a sports complex.

Community input

Sam Mazard, a volunteer with the Mattoon in Motion community planning group, speaks after the Mattoon Sports Complex presentation at the City Council meeting Tuesday night in the Burgess-Osborne Memorial Auditorium.

Sam Mazard, a volunteer with the Mattoon in Motion community planning group that is helping with the sports complex proposal, said community members have expressed interest in economic development that will help prevent Mattoon from being a dying town. He said the sports complex can be a positive change toward that development.

“Think about what you want and what you want to do to accomplish that mission,” Mazard said. “Think about your ‘why’ and let’s make it happen for our future and our kids.”

Keith Summers with the KC Summers Auto Group said Rural King can serve as a catalyst to get the complex and related development going. He said the subsequent revenue, including from dining and shopping, will help the city’s finances no longer be stagnant so that it can make road and other infrastructure improvements.

“Where are the funds going to come from (for infrastructure) if there is not a project like this,” said Mattoon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ed Dowd.

Plans call for developing a 140,000-square-foot indoor facility with eight basketball and 16 volleyball courts, locker rooms, family entertainment center, medical tenant space, and seating for approximately 3,000. The outdoor plans envision developing eight baseball/softball diamonds, eight soccer fields, championship fields and warm-up areas, and a walking/bike path.

Backers project that the development will create 1,660 construction jobs and 1,152 direct and indirect permanent jobs; and annually bring in 250,000 to 580,000 visitors, $23.8 million in direct spending, 59,278 additional hotel stays, and $110.5 million in overall economic impact.

Community turnout

Community members listen to the Mattoon Sports Complex presentation during the Mattoon City Council meeting Tuesday night in Burgess-Osborne Memorial Auditorium.

Those giving the presentation included representatives from The Sports Facilities Companies (SFC) of Clearwater, Florida. Gary Smallshaw, a development advisor with SFC, said youth sports families will travel to complexes even during tough economic times.

“(A sports complex) is a recession resistant, reliable driver of traffic,” Smallshaw said, adding that Mattoon would be an affordable destination for those travelers.

Smallshaw said the trend in sports complexes now is to build them as the anchor for retail development in commercial areas, like in Mattoon, instead of out in the country. Joe Fackel, a development advisor with SFC, said high income travel sports families like to go to where they can watch their children compete, dine, shop and stay the night all in one area.

The council plans to voting sometime in August on a resolution of intent to indicate support for the development and to authorize further work to refine the plans.

Contact Rob Stroud at (217) 238-6861. Follow him on Twitter: @TheRobStroud

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