Mayor says Hoffman Estates is poised to bounce back from pandemic
Hoffman Estates' village, park district and Now Arena operations demonstrated resilience during the pandemic and are well prepared for the recovery ahead, Mayor Bill McLeod said in his annual State of the Village address Wednesday.
But the virtual version of the yearly presentation to the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce and Industry also showed that full recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak remains a work in progress.
"I think every year I say it's been an interesting year, but this one was interesting, tragic and difficult for everyone involved," McLeod said.
The mayor -- who is being challenged in the April 6 election by retired Hoffman Estates police Lt. Mark Mueller and 2017 trustee candidate Nicholas Waryas -- said the trajectory of the pandemic seems to be moving in the right direction.
"We're all hopeful for a strong economic recovery and a happier and brighter 2021," he said.
Among the silver linings of 2020 were the first tenants moving into the Bell Works "Metroburb" on the former site of AT&T's headquarters, even as Somerset Development continues to work on a site plan for the project's residential component, McLeod said.
The village also welcomed high-tech manufacturer Bystronic Inc. to its new North American headquarters in Hoffman Estates, a Holiday Inn Express & Suites near the renamed Now Arena, and a major expansion of the Amita Health Behavioral Health Hospital on the campus of St. Alexius Medical Center.
Though restaurants were particularly hard hit by the pandemic, the village worked with them to allow for expansion of outdoor seating, McLeod said. He singled out some for their innovative ideas, including The Assembly American Bar & Cafe for constructing individual dining huts.
Adjustments to the village budget allowed for the continuation of essential services and the retention of all staffers despite a decline in new revenue, McLeod said, and Hoffman Estates is on solid ground for the rest of 2021.
The village-owned Now Arena was an example of how businesses can adapt to adverse circumstances, officials said.
General Manager Ben Gibbs reported that despite the pandemic's interrupting what was on track to be an especially strong year for attendance to Windy City Bulls games and other events, the arena sold $250,000 in tickets for new drive-in events in its parking lot and sold $500,000 in food and beverages at its newly launched Hideaway Brew Garden outdoors on the Village Green.
Early indications are that the arena may be able open up for indoor events in the fourth quarter of 2021, and pent-up demand suggests that nearly a normal half-year's events could be scheduled for those three months.
"We have a lot of percolating business waiting to get back inside," Gibbs said.
Hoffman Estates Park District Executive Director Craig Talsma took the virtual floor to talk about the district's adaptation to the pandemic.
The park district renewed its agreement for its Triphahn Center to serve as the practice facility for the Chicago Wolves just in time for it to be designated the hockey team's official rink for televised games while crowds are banned.
The district completed a $1.4 million renovation of South Ridge Park, for which it had received a $400,000 state grant. It also received a $225,000 grant for an upcoming renovation of Birch Park on the former site of Twinbrook School, as well as $160,000 for an early learning center at the Triphahn Center.
The park district lost $4.7 million in revenue last year but nearly made up for it with $4.5 million in cuts, Talsma said. Nevertheless, it found ways to continue serving residents that included a variety of drive-by events such as a neighborhood Santa visit.
McLeod told the audience there were many indications that better days are ahead.
"In many ways, the past year has seemed a decade long," he said. "We think we're well positioned to see a burst of activity. I'm optimistic. You have to be optimistic in this business."