Normal Approves Feasibility Study for Multi-Sport Complex

 The Prairie Community Soccer League is in charge of operating the current sports complex at Bloomington’s Central Illinois Regional Airport, where several local sports leagues regularly hold practices and games. (Image credit: PCSL Facebook)

The Prairie Community Soccer League is in charge of operating the current sports complex at Bloomington’s Central Illinois Regional Airport, where several local sports leagues regularly hold practices and games. (Image credit: PCSL Facebook)

At Monday's meeting, Normal Council members took the first step toward learning whether a multi-sport facility could be an economic driver in the Twin Cities.

The Town will pay $47,000 to Clearwater, Florida-based Sports Facilities Advisory, LLC (SFA) to conduct a feasibility study and economic impact analysis of a multi-sport complex in Bloomington-Normal.

Council members said the money is worth it considering the much-needed jobs and revenue such a project could create in the community. 

“Done right and in the right location, [sports facilities] more than pay for themselves with motor fuel tax, sales tax, food and beverage tax and hotel tax,” said Council Member R.C. McBride, stating a multi-sport complex would attract traveling teams and their spending money.

The study could also point local governments toward a solution to a decades-long problem.

Bob Kohlhase is a former board member of the Prairie Community Soccer League in charge of operating the current sports complex at Bloomington’s Central Illinois Regional Airport, where several local sports leagues regularly hold practices and games.

Kohlhase said the Federal Aviation Administration told airport authority officials years ago policy changes would no longer allow non airport activities on airport property, meaning the airport would eventually need to terminate its lease with PCSL.

Since then ideas about how to fill the community’s looming recreational gap have been touch and go, with various proposals falling short of action.

“A full-blown study is the best way to go forward with this, rather than the hunt and peck that’s been going on for the last several years,” said Council Member Jeff Fritzen. “It’s just time after many years of comment to get some hard and fast numbers so that we can make a sound decision.”

Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said The Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau will help pay for the study, although he doesn’t yet know how much they’ll contribute. Peterson said CVB Director Crystal Howard is confident the organization’s board will approve some significant dollars toward the study. The CVB board meets again next month.

Discussions about Bloomington’s involvement in the study are ongoing, although Interim City Manager Steve Rasmussen “wasn’t terribly optimistic” that the City Council would choose to participate, Peterson said.

Council members stressed the Town won’t necessarily move forward with the idea even if the study produces positive results. Town staff expect SFA to submit a final report in 12 weeks.