Kane County Forest Preserve District officials have finalized a deal with a group charged with transforming the former Settler's Hill landfill into a national attraction.
Commissioners agreed to a 10½-year deal with the Chicago Area Track and Field Organizing Committee. The group will oversee the marketing, maintenance and operations of a new cross country facility in fulfillment of a pact made with Geneva to transform the site into a community asset.
The agreement may not be an immediate cash cow for the district.
The terms allow the group to operate for the first 6½ years, including 1½ years of planning and construction, without paying the district any fees. The group also keeps all income generated from events at the facility.
In the seventh year, the forest preserve district will receive a base annual fee of $3,000 and a 5 percent cut of event revenues. For the entire length of the agreement, the Chicago track group keeps all sponsorship income. The forest preserve district retains all income generated by facility naming rights.
The success of the facility will hinge on the Chicago track group's ability to attract events. The district will not pay the group anything for those services beyond the income from sponsorships and the events themselves. That's a key factor. An initial study indicated the cross country facility would be a financial loser if the district had to pay an outside management group to run the operations.
The deal also allows the district to minimize legal liabilities and time spent by taxpayer-funded staff members overseeing and maintaining the site. The question moving forward is whether the payback to the Chicago group will be enough to keep it interested in operating the facility for the long term. The contract mentions the potential for two five-year extensions if all goes well.
Commissioner John Martin, who represents the Geneva area where the landfill sits, said he's "very confident" the experience of the Chicago track group will yield a high-quality product that pays more than financial dividends to county residents.
"The importance is not only are we are getting a premier facility, but with the exception of roughly 12 Saturday mornings, this is going to be available for hiking, walking, and it has a concrete platform for viewing.
"With all that, it really becomes a countywide amenity. If you've not been to the top of the mountain, you find you can see all the way to Chicago."
The contract secures the availability of the site for public use despite the Chicago track group's purposes. It states, "the premises will be open to the public daily throughout the entire year." Because the facility will be built on top of a retired landfill, the public access will be limited to pedestrian foot traffic.
No all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, motorcycles, bicycles or horses will be permitted on the upper landfill.
The cross country events will share parking space with the existing uses on the larger campus. Those uses include the Kane County Cougars, the Strikers Soccer Club Facility and the Fox Valley Ice Arena. All those functions will take precedence over the cross country events, according to the contract.
Projections show construction of the $3.88 million cross country course completed by August 2019. That's just in time for the cross country season.
A Chicago Area Track and Field Organizing Committee spokesman did not immediately respond to an interview request Thursday.