Extra Innings For Sports Complex Development

Plans for a building a large youth baseball facility on the north side of Peoria will have to round the bases again after a key deadline was missed.

The City Council in February approved rezoning land just north of the Shoppes at Grand Prairie to pave the way for the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex. A part of the deal was the developer agreeing to accept an extra tax burden to help pay back $9.6 million the city pledged in support of the project. The measures that would levy the additional taxes, though, have been repeatedly deferred over the last couple of months due to a hold-up on the part of the developer. Then this week, the Council tabled the issues after catching wind of a problem with the sale of the land.

Under an agreement with the city, the developer's deadline to finalize the land acquisition was June 30. The sale did not happen, however, until July 8. Because the deadline was missed, the process of rezoning the property now has to start all over again.

"There was case law to support allowing an extension of [the deadline]. But I think from staff, and the legal perspective, we just wanted it to be clean as opposed to having any potential hang-ups," said Councilman Casey Johnson, who represents the district in which the sports complex is set to be built.

While Johnson doesn't expect any problems as the complex proposal works its way back through City Hall, he says there is no guarantee that the project will be green-lit again.

"That is the risk that the person who bought the land is taking," said Johnson.

Getting approval for the project the first time around didn't come without resistance. People who live in the area packed public hearings and council meetings for weeks while the sports complex idea was being kicked around. Many worried that the traffic, noise, and light pollution created by the facility would be at least an inconvenience, and, at most, a reason to move. Some residents fiercely criticized officials for even considering rezoning the land, since doing so went against the city's comprehensive plan.

Meanwhile, the sports complex has been touted by city officials as a great economic boon for one of the largest growth cells in Peoria. Thousands of people are expected to attend events at the facility each year once it opens, bringing in much-needed traffic to the Shoppes at Grand Prairie and other surrounding businesses.

An attorney for the developer in February said the facility would be able to host games as soon as Thanksgiving 2014. It's not clear how much the latest development will affect that target date. The issue's first reappearance at City Hall will be at the Zoning and Planning Commission's August 7 meeting.

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