Libertyville leaders looking to pump up the Sports Complex
Could visitors to the Libertyville Sports Complex someday be showing up in pajamas?
A sleepover at the cavernous facility at Route 45 and Peterson Road is on the list of potential revenue generators suggested for the village-owned complex.
Others ideas include a wiffle ball tournament, a fan fest with autographs from professional athletes, an indoor farmers market, poker tournament, woodworking show, indoor hockey rink and midnight movies.
"This is a clean slate. You've got to be event planners now. Why not?" said sports marketing expert Conrad "Connie" Kowal recently during an informal gathering of village committees involved with recreation and economic development.
Maximizing revenues at the complex, which for years has been a financial burden to the village, was the topic of a recent work session hosted by the village board.
Since it opened in 2002, revenues have fallen about $7 million short of covering the debt service on the complex, nearly exhausting the village's rainy day fund and causing leaders to scramble to narrow the gap.
The Sports Complex is three separate operations on 48 acres: the Golf Learning Center, which features a driving range with heated tees; the now-closed Family Entertainment Center, which had batting cages and miniature golf; and the Indoor Sports Complex, a 169,000-square-foot facility housing indoor soccer and basketball courts, a fitness center and other amenities.
Efforts to sell the golf and family centers have been unsuccessful. The village received three proposals at a recent auction but all were rejected as being too low.
So with essentially nothing to lose, Kowal, who formerly worked for the Chicago Cubs and New Orleans Saints, was called to shake things up. He is the husband of Village Clerk Sally Kowal but is not being paid by the village.
Alternately serving as master of ceremonies, cheerleader and facilitator, Kowal prowled the room poking and prodding for ideas.
Cutting expenses, he said, is easy but painful. Generating revenues is "risky but tough to do," he added.
"This is not something (that) can wait for the next five-year plan," he said. "This is now."
Kowal suggested one-time unique events as well as ongoing ones could become cornerstones for visitors.
The most ambitious idea was suggested by James Zych, director of parks and recreation, who said the driving range property, which is hilly, could be regraded to create a multipurpose outdoor space.
Lacrosse, soccer, movie nights, concerts, boys baseball and girls softball - even a Shakespeare in the Park-type event - could be among the uses.
Kowal said ideas can come from anywhere but have to help fill the building or grounds and generate a profit.
The ideas will be summarized and presented to the village board for discussion and follow up.