When it comes to boosting sports tourism in our area, Rockford's top decision-makers think a new project, Reclaiming First, is a slam-dunk. City leaders moved quickly and just about unanimously to approve the plan. The same cannot be said for lawmakers in Springfield, who control if and when Reclaiming First kicks off. With just Wednesday left in the fall veto session, it's not looking like anything will get passed to help the project.
Legislators need to pass a bill allowing Winnebago County and its cities to increase hotel taxes. It's stuck in the General Assembly, at the committee level, but Reclaiming First organizers are still trying to stay on schedule.
"We're in the process of interviewing architects for the Ingersoll building, Sportscore Two project, and the improvements to Sportscore One next week." -says Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke.
Whether or not the hotel tax increase gets approved, one piece of the plan can get moving. Turning the old downtown Ingersoll building into an indoor sports' facility is around a $15 million portion of the project paid for by grants, along with city and park district contributions. Renovating Sportscores One and Two is reliant on the hotel tax revenue. Dimke says the longer this legislation is moved down the road, the bigger Reclaiming First's price tag becomes.
"If it's January or if it's delayed until May, we basically could lose an entire construction season which as we know about construction costs could add $1 million to the project."
The stall in Springfield doesn't just put a hold on funding sources. Once the hotel tax bill is approved, an intergovernmental agreement will be formed deciding how the bonding will be set up and how the tax will be collected.
The total cost of this project comes in right around $40 million. The majority of hotel tax revenue would pay for Sportscore Two improvements.
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