Will indoor season at former Libertyville Sports Complex lead Canadian operator to stay?
Physical changes inside the cavernous former Libertyville Sports Complex have been subtle, but its new operator has been working diligently for months to restart the facility and strengthen its suburban presence.
Canadian-based Canlan Sports has been making progress since reopening the dormant facility July 1 as a tenant with an option to buy the property on the busy corner of Route 45 and Peterson Road.
With the busy indoor sports season coming, how things go over the next several months will help determine whether the company settles in Libertyville for the long haul.
"It depends on the performance and utilization," said Michael Gellard, executive vice president. "The next six months will give us an indication. The building itself, we're very impressed with it."
Though Canlan had been operating for nearly four months, company executives have been unable to see their investment in person because border restrictions kept them in Canada.
With the travel ban lifted, Gellard and others this week visited suburban operations in Lake Barrington, West Dundee and Romeoville. The Illinois tour included a stop Thursday in Libertyville for a ceremonial ribbon-cutting with village officials, employees and others.
"The village has been extremely supportive to work with. They want to see this be successful," Chief Operating Officer Mark Faubert said afterward. "We hope our brand will carry some weight in this marketplace."
Canlan opened in Lake Barrington in 2015. General Manager Tammy Kerr kept an eye on the Libertyville Sports Complex, which was closed by the village March 13, 2020, at the outset of the pandemic.
"It was a very difficult decision for the board and community," Mayor Donna Johnson said.
But there may be a golden lining involving the facility that long has been a drain on village finances. Canlan approached the village and negotiations began. In April, the village board enthusiastically approved a two-year lease with an option to buy the facility at any time for $3.75 million.
A five-month grace period in consideration of COVID-19 capacity restrictions and startup costs was part of the deal. Canlan will begin paying $20,000 per month rent Dec. 1.
The agreement covers the indoor sports center as well as a baseball diamond and boarded rink on the property. The 169,000-square-foot indoor sports facility has two full-sized indoor soccer fields, multiple indoor courts, a climbing wall, a fitness area and other features.
The building also includes room for third-party tenants. Hot Ground Gym, which operates a kids gym featuring indoor obstacle courses and team building events in Arlington Heights, is readying space in Libertyville for an opening this fall.
The indoor facility is one of three components comprising the Libertyville Sports Complex, which opened on 48 acres in 2002. The village borrowed $25 million in two bond issues to buy the land and build the facilities, which included a tiered golf driving range and mini-golf area.
Both have been closed and available for sale. A plan to sell the bulk of the property for development of two industrial buildings is pending.
In a related matter, annual debt payments on the sports complex are expected to drop from $1.6 million to $900,000 as a result of a bond payoff and restructuring.