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Sports groups drop recycling center pitch

Evanston youth sports groups today withdrew their proposal to convert the city's former recycling center to an indoor sports facility.

In a letter to city officials, the board of the Evanston Baseball and Softball Association said objections raised by some aldermen this summer to the financial terms of the proposal made it impossible to move forward with the project.

"We are not commercial real estate developers," the board said it its letter, adding that the non-profit groups could not afford the "market rents, property taxes and additional costs" some aldermen appeared to be demanding.

The groups had proposed to spend $750,000 to build out the facility at 2222 Oakton St. as an indoor training space for the youth teams in baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse and football.

But several aldermen had voiced objections to the terms of the deal in July, the last time it was discussed by an aldermanic committee.

"How can we possibly justify this," Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, asked, saying she believed the plan would end up costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars just to maintain the building's roof during the projected 25-year term of the lease.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said she'd never agree to the proposed $1-a-year rent from the group for the building and that she believed there were "many other sticking points" with the proposal.

And Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, also voiced opposition to it.

The vote to start talks with the sports group came just over a year ago, after City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had recommended that the building be sold off for commercial development instead — a move he estimated could bring in $1.5 million from the sale and as much as $100,000 a year in property tax revenue.

In its letter today, the EBSA board said the city's estimate of the value of the property was unrealistic and that "we can go to surrounding communities for higher grade space at less cost."

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