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Group Withdraws Proposal For Indoor Sports Facility at Recycling Center

In a letter submitted to the city council Monday, the Evanston Baseball and Softball Association says it can’t afford to pay market rates to lease the vacant city property, as some aldermen have requested.

The Evanston Baseball and Softball Association announced Monday that it would withdraw its proposal to build an indoor sports facility at the former site of Evanston Recycling Center. 

In a letter to the Evanston city council, members of the Evanston Baseball and Softball Association (EBSA) board of directors wrote that they did not believe they could afford to pay market rates to lease the site, as some city council members had suggested at a meeting earlier this summer. 

“We started this out on a community partnership basis,” said Greg Clarke, a spokesperson for the group. “They have made it very clear they want it to be a moneymaker.” 

Related: Why Evanston Needs An Indoor Sports Facility

Along with other local sports groups, EBSA first approached the city council in early 2011, with a proposal to build a nonprofit indoor sports facility at the former site of the Evanston Recycling Center. Located at 2222 Oakton St., the recycling center has been vacant since August 2010, when the when the city shut it down in order to save money

With initial support from some aldermen, the group created a proposal for a 25-year lease from the city at a cost of $1 per year. When the proposal came before aldermen at the Administration and Public Works Committee in July, however, several council members said they were hesitant about leasing the site to a nonprofit with no possibility for revenue.

Ald. Ann Rainey described the terms as “an outrage” saying the indoor sports facility would be a loss to city tax rolls at a city where she believes a for-profit operation could bring not just lease income but property tax revenue. 

“I will never support it, I will do everything to defeat it,” said Rainey, who represents the eighth ward where the property is located.

Ald. Delores Holmes (fifth ward) agreed with Rainey, saying she, too, could not support a lease of $1 per year, while Ald. Coleen Burrus (ninth ward) described the terms as “shocking.”

In their letter to the city council, EBSA’s board of directors said they believed the aldermen’s reaction was “a dramatic change” compared with the initial support they believed they had from the city council, before the terms were fully hashed out.

“We’re very disappointed in this turn of events," Clarke said. “No one knows what the market rate is for a closed recycling center."

Furthermore, Clarke and the board of directors say that paying market rents would be “completely uneconomical for the project and its sponsor organizations.” Under the proposal, EBSA would have operated the indoor sports center as a non-profit. Operating funds were to come from the local sports organizations that have teamed up on the project (including Evanston Wildkits Football, Evanston AYSO Soccer and Evanston Lacrosse), from fundraising and from fees.

“We’re not closing any doors, only saying that we’re not spending any more time and money and effort going down a path that’s completely unrealistic for us, especially since we were expecting some capital expenditure of three-quarters of a million dollars,” he said.

Although the group is no longer considering the Evanston Recycling Center to be a feasible future site for an indoor sports facility, Clarke said they will continue to search for a space. With demand exceeding the space available at the Chandler-Newberger Center and Robert Crown Center, Clarke said local sports leagues like EBSA stop practicing in the winter altogether, with those kids who can afford to driving to indoor facilities in Northbrook or Chicago, for example.

That means their parents are spending money in other areas, he adds, rather than at home in Evanston.

“Last year we had over 1,400 families involved,” he said. “Absolutely 100 percent will say, ‘Yes, we need more indoor space.’”

Clarke said that EBSA is actively searching for another space, including sites in other towns.

“I can’t tell you that we have one lined up right now, but we are absolutely working on that,” he says. “We thought [the Evanston Recycling Center] was our best option.”

Lori Keenan October 17, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Shocking that the aldermen continue to support such losing ideas as the City-sponsored build out of a wine bar, with reduced rates for the tenant/owners in the apartment above it, and buying empty buildings on Howard Street, plus gets Best Buy to provide $10k in appliances, but things like an indoor sports facility are outrageous to them. "Shocking" from Burrus, and Rainey will "do everything to defeat it." Sounds like their tune about libraries, too. When will the people of Evanston wake up and elect some aldermen that represent our ideals and our community? Elections coming up...
Sona Rejebian October 17, 2012 at 05:32 AM
What these aldermen don't realize is that aging, recycling facilities are probably only worth $1 per year! OK, maybe $10/year. What a great way to alienate all of the kids who play baseball, soccer and lacrosse. and their families (who paid to build that facility, I might add!!!!). So they would rather let it sit there and rot as a storage place for unused trash receptacles? Boy, that sure brings in a lot of revenue.
victoria smith October 17, 2012 at 12:13 PM
This is so typical of Evanston! Why would you want oranizations for sports going to other facilities? Doesn't make much sense when the structure has been sitting for two years now does it? Must not be important enough, just like allot of other things that would help to make Evanston a better community!
lucas October 17, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Doesn't made any sense for the City to give this property away and then have to pay rent for storage elsewhere
Jim October 17, 2012 at 01:42 PM
The alderpersons are not really stupid. They just don't know what to do to solve any problem or issue. So they do or don't do "something" and since there is no real logic to that, unintended consequences are always there in randon fashion, usually not good ones. I feel badly for them as they are just poor souls trying to look as if they know what they are doing.
Sim Elwood October 17, 2012 at 02:40 PM
In light of recent violence that has victimized Evanston's youth, you would think that these elected officials would welcome such a facility. Instead they seem OK with this vacant eyesore right in the middle of an existing sports complex (James Park). Alderman Rainey is obviously very out of touch with Evanston's residents and us parents in particular. The City Council as a whole should be ashamed of themselves. I for one will do whatever I can to prevent the reelection of Alderman Rainey for her refusal to address this in a sensible manner. As in her words "I will never support her, I will do everything to defeat her."
Sim Elwood October 17, 2012 at 04:49 PM
It wasn't built to store garbage cans. They can do that in many other places they already control. Letting EBSA re-open this facility will revitalize the property and give kids more reason to stay off the streets. The area businesses will profit and boost the tax contribution. Storing garbage cans does absolutely nothing for any of us.
CHB October 17, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Whatever are the alderpersons of Evanston thinking? Shocking is a polite way to say what I am thinking....just plain stupid! This is so incredibly short sighted. How many kids will we need to see gunned down in the street because we are not giving teens enough alternatives. Here is a perfect opportunity to walk the talk and really do something that would generate positive activities for kids and we cannot find the $$...are you kidding me?! Several years ago when one of our kids was playing on a traveling soccer team we traveled to South Bend for a weekend and spent 2 days watching the crowds fill an indoor facility there. The games were played from 7AM to 11PM. All the kids and their families played, ate at restaurants and stayed at local hotels for the weekend. It does not take great business sense to know that this type of facility will pay for itself many times over, keeping kids off the streets and giving them a first class facility and lending support to surrounding local businesses.
Sim Elwood October 18, 2012 at 02:52 PM
This won't cost the city anything except to relocate the garbage cans and some trucks. The sports group will cover all costs to build out and maintain. These alderpersons think it should directly generate tax revenue. They are too blind to see how it would benefit the local businesses. The idea of giving Evanston's youth more activities appears to be tied to spending millions on Robert Crown. Huh? You have to be kidding me.
jim October 19, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Sim I believe you aare incorrrect. The group wants the City to maintain building since the City would be Landlord. Why don't the group offer to just buy the place. Perhaps they want to be able to walk away if it doesn't work out.
Sim Elwood October 19, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I don't believe you are correct but I will dig deeper. Details aside, Rainey and Holmes summarily dismissed the proposal without a counter offer. They are content to let it sit with no benefit to the community at all. It is blatant disregard for the residents they represent.
jim October 19, 2012 at 03:40 PM
It came u in a previous meeting.
Sim Elwood October 19, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Fred I don't have the original proposal but in the letter above the EBSA writes "Against a backdrop of budget constraints and dwindling public resources, we set forth a proposal to build an indoor sports facility that would come at no cost to the City of Evanston." I know the people involved in this proposal and I believe they are telling the truth. The aldermen who blocked this only will listen to this if these non-profit groups generate direct tax revenue. You support these people? No other rec facility generates tax revenue and we pay to maintain them.
jim October 19, 2012 at 03:55 PM
i believe there are user fees involved in the other facilities
Sim Elwood October 19, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Fred you are correct, in fact there was discussion that the city would cover the cost of a new roof in addition to the cost of relocating the trash equipment. However there appears to be no request for a new proposal and the idea was shot down. They now want to spend the money to make it a salt dome. So we would pay to relocate the trash equipment and convert it to salt storage, degrade the neighborhood with snow plow traffic and short change the local businesses. All of this without providing any resource for Evanston's youth, No matter how you slice it this is government being irresponsible. Next they will spend more money on Robert Crown??? This is soooo wrong.
Sim Elwood October 19, 2012 at 04:03 PM
As there would be at this facility, but Evanston Rec Dept manages those at our cost
jim October 21, 2012 at 02:25 AM
Can't really agree that the Governemnt in this case is irresponsible. Perhaps you need to look closer at EBSA. Would they have kept coming to city for additional funding as other organizations currently do?
Sim Elwood October 21, 2012 at 03:45 AM
Fred you obviously are siding with the elected officials here. My guess is you don't have children or are not concerned about what our youth have to do in Evanston. We have a responsibility to them and our community and this shows a lack of respect for the issue. Lets keep bringingi in new businesses and disregard whether the people will patronize them. Lets just drive out families in general. Then you can stay in your home and count your money you saved on taxes while the violence continues outside your window.
jim October 21, 2012 at 02:31 PM
YUp Sim thats why we elected them. If there is so much support from them community and families with kids then lets have them step forward with some money. You rellay didn't address my comment above and it appears you agree they will probably keep coming to counil for money. Have they produced a fuinancial statement?
Sim Elwood October 22, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Yes they have. Sorry you feel this way. So many Americans share your disregard for how government can help the community.
jim October 22, 2012 at 05:57 PM
They are helping the Community and just a not a small group. If the City is going to be landlord they should get market value for the property. Last I looked over 70% of the property tax bills go to Schools,Libraries, Park and lots of programs. Try reading Arts & Recreation.
Sim Elwood October 22, 2012 at 06:05 PM
What else should it go toward? Fact is that this facility would have cost very little and provided a lot to all of us and local business. Only 2 votes were cast in opposition so you are in the minority. The youth needs things to do in Evanston other than shoot at each other. We disagree Fred, mostly because you probably don't have children in the community. I wish you luck and be safe.
jim October 22, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Perhaps city should convert to Teen Center. You need to check you facts again Sim. You and your group want want city to intain since they are landlord
Sim Elwood October 22, 2012 at 06:50 PM
The group would maintain it and it could be used as a teen center but the council shot it down and wants a salt dome. We all lose.

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