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NORMAL — Normal City Council members wanted to be very clear Monday: Approving a sports complex study is not the same as approving a sports complex.

"What we're doing tonight is voting to get some information on whether or not ... there's a real opportunity to move forward," said council member Kevin McCarthy. "This is a pricey idea, and I think it's well worth a small investment in good information for us to make great decisions on very expensive ideas." 

The council agreed to fund a $47,000 analysis of a potential Bloomington-Normal outdoor sports complex through Florida-based Sports Facilities Advisory. The company will spend 10 to 12 weeks examining the possibility of a complex for soccer and other sports that would replace Community Fields and generate economic development.

One proposal, from landowner Dave Stark and real estate developer The Kim Group, put the cost of a complex at $28 million. 

"We've decided a full-blown study is the best way to move forward with this rather than the hunt and peck (process) going on over the last several years," said council member Jeff Fritzen. "It's time to fish or cut bait."

The Bloomington-Normal Convention and Visitors Bureau has agreed to help fund the study, but not for a specific amount, said City Manager Mark Peterson, and the city of Bloomington has not responded to his request.

"(Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen) wasn't terribly optimistic they would choose to participate," said Peterson.

In other business, the council approved:

• A new 10-year lease with Subway for its location at Uptown Station. The rent, starting March 1, will be $1,000 per month and will increase $125 a month every two years until it reaches $1,500 per month from Jan. 1, 2026, to Dec. 31, 2027.

Council member Scott Preston questioned why the restaurant's lease rate will be cut by half in the first two years of the new agreement, to a rate he said is "not market appropriate" for uptown.

Peterson said new ownership for the location requested a reduction but also agreed to extend the new lease from five years to 10.

"If we continue to insist on the current rate structure, there's very little doubt in my mind they would probably have to discontinue operation once their lease expires (this July), because their sales numbers do not justify the lease rate they're paying," said Peterson.

• Changes to the town's liquor code to allow hotels and restaurants to begin serving alcohol at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Fritzen voted "no." He first proposed an amendment to change the time to 10 a.m. that failed.

"We've moved from probably one of the strictest, tightest liquor codes in the state of Illinois to one that is pretty standard," he said. "We've continually loosened our code and responded to the market ... and I guess I'm just done doing that."

Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh



Reporter for The Pantagraph.

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