Libertyville names new sports complex director
High octane is one way to describe Conrad "Connie" Kowal, Libertyville's new recreation and sports complex director.
He won't be officially installed until Sept. 14, but the longtime Libertyville resident and sports executive likely had a spreadsheet ready the minute the village board emerged from a closed session Tuesday to say he'd been hired.
"He's probably sitting there today, coming up with ideas and talking with his contacts," Mayor Terry Weppler said Wednesday. "To say he's a Type A personality would be understating it."
The village received 182 applications for the post, which opened in early May with the ouster of James Zych after seven years as director of parks and recreation.
The distinction in the title indicates the village's shift in focus and responsibilities for the person who will lead the parks department while trying to energize the Libertyville Sports Complex, which has been a burden on the village's balance sheet.
Parks maintenance, for example, has been shifted to the oversight of the public works department.
"The suggestion box will be one of the biggest things," Kowal said Tuesday, shortly after the announcement. "We're in the event business."
In an e-mail Wednesday, Kowal said he has started "game-planning" to include input from the staff and community regarding the use of the Sports Complex, Riverside golf course, pool and other facilities.
He said the department will try to improve existing programs, events and activities that worked and energize those that didn't go so well.
"And we'll look at new ideas, new programs, new events, new activities, (and) new alliances to enhance, promote, market and maximize the potential for the Sports Complex" and other offerings, he added.
"This is going to be an all-hands-on-deck effort from many, many people," he said.
The Sports Complex, at Route 45 and Peterson Road, is expected to be a focus. The Golf Learning Center portion, which is open, and the Family Entertainment Center component, which closed a few years ago, have been for sale for a possible commercial development.
Kowal, 58, taught social studies and coached golf at Mundelein High School until 1980, when he left for opportunities with a variety of professional sports teams including 15 years with the Chicago Cubs. He also worked for the Chicago Sting, Chicago Motor Speedway, New Orleans Saints, Chicago Shamrox (lacrosse) and most recently as the executive director of the Chicago Baseball Museum.
He also has served as an unpaid consultant to the village for regarding the Sports Complex. A village release said Kowal was hired because of his "unique skill set and extensive experience."
Kowal will be paid $96,000 per year. His wife, Sally, is the Libertyville village clerk, a part-time position.
Opinions from the village attorney and outside counsel showed no legal conflict of interest because the village clerk, while elected, is not a member of the corporate authorities and does not vote. Village officials also said a marital relationship "does not disqualify the village from hiring the best qualified individual for the position."