LEMONT – While it is still seeking sources for private financing, the Village of Lemont is moving forward with the process of bringing its proposed Lemont Sports Complex to referendum on the spring election ballot, Mayor Brian Reaves said during a Lemont Village Board meeting Oct. 21.
Reaves said the village has contacted four individuals about privately financing the $21 million project, but potential investors did not like that they would never be able to own the land where the sports complex would be located.
“Every individual who came to the village of Lemont as far as privately financing this ... that was the number one sticking point,” he said.
The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago owns the land at the north end of Stephen Street. By state statute, the district is not allowed to sell the land, but can lease it to government agencies for recreation, Reaves said.
Reaves said the village plans to meet with more potential investors in November.
The sports complex became a contentious topic in February as the village prepared to move ahead with the project. Residents collected enough signatures to force the village to go to referendum with the complex.
Janet Hughes, one of the petition organizers, said she was concerned by both the cost and lack of public awareness about the project.
“The fact that they were going to approve it without the voters’ approval was very bothersome in the economy this day,” she said.
Hughes said she thinks all public projects the size of the complex should require public approval and is afraid the taxpayers will end up covering the cost.
Reaves said the village plans to pay for the complex by using operation revenue from the facility, sales and income tax dollars, and Tax Increment Financing district funds.
He said these financing sources are in place as safeguards so that the village will not have to use property taxes for the project.
“There would have to be a catastrophic issue where the Village of Lemont could not make a bond payment,” he said, for the village to use property taxes to pay for the project.
If the referendum passes, the village will not be required to build the facility if costs are too prohibitive, Reaves said.
Hughes said she would like private investors to fund such projects rather than local governments.
“If private investors aren’t grabbing at this opportunity, maybe it’s not that good of an idea,” she said.
Meanwhile, Reaves said the interest from sports clubs wanting to use the facility has remained strong.
He said teams are attracted to the indoor and outdoor fields and the competitive rates for booking space.
Reaves said he also believes the sports complex could be a financial boon for the rest of Lemont because families who go to the facility for sporting events may visit local businesses between games.
“People have always talked about turning downtown Lemont into an entertainment-type destination place,” he said.
Reaves said if the facility is approved in March, construction could be completed by next November.