Schaumburg mayoral candidates debate Boomers Stadium finances
Schaumburg's three mayoral candidates Thursday shared their thoughts about the financial strength of the 20-year-old Schaumburg Boomers Stadium co-owned by the village and Schaumburg Park District, as well as what they hope to do to improve it.
Village Trustee Tom Dailly and newcomers Nafees Rahman and Matthew Steward are vying in the April 2 election to succeed 32-year incumbent Mayor Al Larson.
Rahman, who is running on a slate with trustee candidates Dhitu Bhagwakar and Rocco Terranova, recently voiced concern about the history of the village's investment in the ballpark. The stadium housed first the Schaumburg Flyers, until that team dissolved amid financial woes in 2011, and then the three-time champion Schaumburg Boomers since 2012.
Rahman is calling for an audit of the stadium's revenues and expenses and believes the lease with the Boomers needs to be renegotiated to be more lucrative for the village and park district. He also questions whether the park district is paying its fair share of landlord expenses, as the records he's found don't appear to demonstrate that.
"It doesn't make sense that we're losing money," Rahman said. "We have to fix this."
Rahman suggests more events be held at the stadium to raise more money, such as concerts and soccer or cricket games. He added that he would implement his plans for improvement of the stadium's finances by building relationships with trustees on the village board as well as the members of the park district's board.
Steward said he's been a fan of both teams that have played at the stadium, but emotional attachment hasn't blinded him to the need for the facility to be financially sound. He agreed that it's time for some fresh eyes to assess the situation.
Though Steward said he wouldn't approach the question of the stadium's finances with the presumption that something's wrong, he believes the fact Rahman's research hasn't yielded the answers is a symptom of a bigger concern regarding a lack of transparency at the village.
But like Rahman, he acknowledged that a mayoral candidate's implementation of his or her platform requires persuading other board members.
"The more light that gets shed on an issue, the easier it is to sway people to your point of view," Steward said. "At this point there's not much light being shed regarding Boomers Stadium."
Dailly believes the financial reports regarding the stadium are clear, adding that sound finances might seem unfamiliar to Rahman, a state employee.
"I think he distorts things to serve his message," Dailly said of Rahman. "He's doing that to scare people into thinking the village is in terrible shape."
Dailly said the park district has been paying its half of expenses on everything regarding the structure of the stadium, but the village takes responsibility for traffic control during games and maintenance of the parking lot as an extension of the adjacent Metra station lot.
The original lease for the Boomers was written to help the team establish itself as a replacement tenant at the stadium, while the next agreement would reflect the financial realities at that time, Dailly said. But the ballpark was built before the village had a property tax and was paid off 10 years ago. Property taxes are still not part of the stadium's revenue stream, he added.
Dailly said other events have been and continue to be planned at the stadium, including the possibility of two concerts this summer and Chicago Bears player Akiem Hicks' newly announced charity softball game June 15.
He added that he has been in favor of adding artificial turf to increase the number of events the stadium can host and of turning the current club there into a year-round restaurant, just as Pilot Pete's is a tenant at the village-owned Schaumburg Regional Airport.