Rockford city leaders say downtown sports project is sound, - – Rockford’s News Leader

Rockford city leaders say downtown sports project is sound, some aldermen aren't sure

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As the cost increases for a downtown Rockford sports complex project, so do aldermen's concerns. They support turning the Ingersoll building into an indoor sports facility, but they're not pleased after seeing project cost change from $15 million to more than $20 million.

"I was very surprised from the past council seeing one number and the new council seeing another number." -says 14th Ward Alderman Joe Chiarelli.

City council members need more explanation on why the price went up. They're worried this won't be the only jump.

"My fear is that the expense is going to keep going and then where do we get the money from?" -says 8th Ward Alderman Jeanne Oddo.

City administrator Jim Ryan blames part of the increase on the building itself.

"The estimate we had for the southern addition on the original concept was way off. The estimates to do that are just too cost prohibitive." -he says.

That area was designated to become a skate park. With help from a U.S. EPA grant, designs are now different.

"We're going to demolish that, we're going to use Brownfields monies to do that and then we're going to build a new championship court that will be an addition to the existing structure." -Ryan explains.

That means a new total of eight basketball courts, convertible to 16 volleyball courts. But, it's not the only blueprint change.

"It'll include a Mezzanine that will have party rooms, a Kids' Zone, areas for people to look over the courts." -Ryan adds.

The Rockford Park District is involved with this project. Leaders there are confident in the new plan.

"I don't see anything in the information that's been produced by our architectural team to say that it's going to increase from this point on, unless scope changes, but we've vetted out a lot of the scope with our user groups, private citizens, aldermen have been involved. So, there's been a lot of input which is important and now we believe it's time to move on." -says Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke.

Until aldermen get more information, some won't support project funding. We've spoken with about half of them directly and they say they'll a resolution on next Monday's agenda, which takes away city authority to issue bonds for the complex.

Ryan explains it's ultimately up to aldermen and RPD board members to come to an operating agreement, but he's confident bonds will be sold later this winter. Capital Program Manager Pat Zuroske believes the city can put the project out to bid in late winter 2013/2014, begin construction spring of 2014 and have the complex up and running by 2015.

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