Cavalier soccer players likely will be playing on a field of their own by fall.
The La Salle-Peru Township High School approved Wednesday night a proposed $5.7 million athletic complex at Chartres Street and Raccuglia Drive.
The plan calls for building track-and-field facilities, a regulation soccer field and eight tennis courts on the 39-acre site with work beginning as early as late March.
Why do it?
In a presentation during the school board meeting superintendent Steve Wrobleski said improving and maintaining facilities that promote school and community pride was one of the primary goals that came out of the school’s strategic planning process last year. This project, which was conceived about 12 years ago, is a step toward fulfilling that goal, particularly by creating athletic facilities currently not in place for the district.
Along with increasing athletic opportunities for L-P students, the complex will likely be used by local feeder school districts and other community organizations. Wrobleski provided a list of six local elementary school districts, the youth soccer program and Starved Rock Runners Club, all of whom have shown interest in using the facilities.
“We believe our participation numbers are going to significantly increase as a result of what the sender districts will be able to support and nurture,” he said.
Since the new facilities will allow the district to bring more people into the area for competitions and host postseason, Wrobleski said it will financially benefit the community and school.
“We believe the development of the complex will have a significant boom for our neighboring businesses,” he said.
Additionally, he expects new revenue streams from sources such as post-season events, rental fees and event admissions to support the ongoing maintenance costs of the facilities.
How do they pay for it?
As recently reported, the district will use a combination of funds from the city of La Salle, working cash reserves and an alternate revenue bond to pay for the project without increasing the district’s tax levy.
While the exact costs of the project will be determined once bids are received, likely in early March, the board has approved spending up to $2 million in working cash funds and up to $4 million in the alternate revenue bond. That bond would be paid off with tax increment financing district revenues the school district receives from local municipalities.
The city of La Salle has agreed to provide $100,000 per year over the next ten years for the project in addition to the regular TIF payments.
“We’re very excited to be a partner in this,” La Salle Mayor Jeff Grove said Wednesday. “Hopefully this is just one small step for the campus and L-P going forward.”
What’s in the plan?
The track, soccer field and tennis courts will be joined by more than 460 parking spaces, a gravel bus parking area and concessions/storage building.
A practice soccer field will be located within the eight-lane track.
Stephen Nelson of architectural firm Studio GC of Chicago said they will not develop the southeast portion of property at this time, but there is still land available to eventually place baseball or softball diamonds or other facilities there in the future. There also is space to add more tennis courts, he said.
Assuming work begins this spring, the project is expected to be completed in September.
While the athletic complex project is most visible at this time, Wrobleski said the academic facilities are not being forgotten.
“Our next phase right now is to conduct a full-scale facilities audit,” he said.
That audit will give the district a sense of the potential enhancements that could benefit the academic buildings through renovation or construction and the costs associated with such projects.
Concurrently, administrators and faculty are working on “serious academic initiatives” to ensure that student academic performance improves, he said.
Sales tax referendum, take two
The board also approved directing the Regional Office of Education to place a one percent school facility sales tax referendum question on the April 9 election ballot. A similar referendum vote failed in the last election.
Wrobleski, school board president Jim Quesse and board member Rick Sipovic said the decision is less about bringing tax revenue into L-P than it is about giving the public the opportunity to support the initiative that would provide revenue to school districts throughout La Salle County.
School boards representing a majority of students in the county must approve the measure before it can be placed on the ballot. As one of the largest districts by enrollment in the county, L-P’s decision increases the likelihood the referendum question will make it to the ballot.
“There’s no question that school districts would welcome this revenue,” Quesse said.
Still, not all of the school board supported the decision. Board member Tony Sparks voted against it.
Considering that L-P has been able to position itself to fund the athletic complex project without raising tax rates, he said it doesn’t feel appropriate to be supporting a potential tax increase at this time.
“It just doesn’t sit right with me,” he said.
In other business, the board recognized 26 students as Illinois State Scholars.
Matthew Baker can be reached at (815) 220-6933, or firstname.lastname@example.org.