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.”

Related story

Evanston aldermen boot sports conflict to ethics panel

Manage urges commercial use of recycling site

Related document

EBSA letter to city

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Time to develop

    The proposal from the sports group, while earnest, was what was truly unrealistic, their submitted financials were incomplete with very underestimated line items.  Now that this is formally off the table maybe we can actually get something accomplished with that site,  Bring on the 1.5 million in sales revenue, bring on the 100K every year in real estate taxes, create commercial development that provides jobs and generates sales taxes.  Time to develop that site. 

    Best of luck to ESBA with their search in surrounding communites for higher grade space at less cost.  I'm all for letting the surrounding area's taxpayers pay the substantial amounts that will be needed to fund the long term underwriting of that ESBA business plan.

    1. What about community gardens and pet shelter there?

      If that entire site is developed, what will become of these two other community resources?

      I'm all for generating more revenue, but Evanston has lots of empty storefronts already, why not put efforts into these store fronts instead? .  THat space sits upon one of the biggest pieces of community recreation real estate in our town. Is it really in the best interest of the residents to reduce this land, and sell it off to the highest bidder?

      I"m all for keeping taxes low.  However, building up community resources such as recreation facilities, community gardens, and animal shelters are exactly the kinds of things I do want my tax money spent on.

      Maybe the plan wasn't perfect, but the city did not appear to try to work with the group at all. Instead, we have Alderman Rainey putting a block on the entire project by sending it to the ethics committee because Alderman   Grover's husband used to volunteer with one of the involved parties.   I fail to see what is unethical about an alderman wanting to support a non-profit group's efforts in town.  Grover would not personally making any money off of any of this development.     



    2. City numbers are bongus for Economic Development

      We would have had to subsidize this sport complex BUT we will also subsidize any development on this site- Wally has yet to produce a set of REAL numbers for economic development.  A good recent example is Robert Crown Wally told everyone NO cost to taxpayers, Not one bidder said that could be done – It will cost us millions!

      TAke a look at the useless Wine and Cheese Bar and Lit Theather project – both have negative ROIs that is they are no just making no money they are losing money.Over 1 million dollars of taxpayers money wasted!

      I pointed out the sports complex would cost money but the real issue here is the generation of REAL numbers on any project, no the lies and incompetence of city staff that can not generate real world numbers.

      It is a mess, Wally numbers for this site were BONGUS, they made no sense and would not have turn any real profit for the city.

  2. Disappointed in the City

    I was very sorry to read this article, and disappointed in the City, or at least those aldermen (Burrus, Holmes, and Rainey) who opposed this not-for-profit use of the former recycling center.  This was Evanston's chance to provide to its sports-playing kids, especially the lower-income ones, the same type of off-season skills development that our North Shore neighbors provide to their kids through for-profit entities.

    The fact is that many of Evanston's sports-playing youth are using scholarship assistance to play their sports, and even among those who are paying the full registration fees, not many can afford to attend the expensive for-profit clinics that are held throughout the North Shore, from the Strike Zone baseball in Northfield to NUFA soccer in Winnetka and many other similar, high-cost opportunties.  A not-for-profit sports facility in Evanston would have served our youth and given them opportunities that they wouldn't otherwise have — and apparently now won't.

    Aldermen Burrus, Rainey, and Holmes — You should be ashamed of yourselves for not thinking this through and seeing the non-monetary benefits this sports facility could have provided to our kids.  Perhaps your efforts should be focused more on filling the plethora of empty retail spaces that abound in Evanston instead of preventing what would have been an excellent use of this one-of-a-kind space for Evanston youth sports.

  3. Thanks for trying EBSA and AYSO

    It's such a bummer that city officials didn't jump at this opportunity to support the kids' programming in our town.

    Thank you to all those on EBSA, AYSO, and other groups who tried to make this happen.  Thanks for putting in your time to try and improve services for all the kids in town.

    This field house would have been an amazing, much needed, addition to our recreation department

     It's unfortunate that  some members of city council have no problem spending millions on private business, like wine bars, grocery stores, and pancake houses, but feel that they can not use tax dollars to support services for the residents and their families.  




    1. Thanks…

      Why should the city poobahs care about the kids — after all, they are not voting-age Dems!!

  4. What’s going on with the property now?

    Am I missing somthing?   Isn't it sitting vacant  – contributing nothing to the quality of life?

    Why all this resistance to making use of idle land.

    If the City has a better offer – than let's hear it.

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