Sports lease talks for Evanston recycling center drag on

Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to get an update on the city's negotiations with the Evanston Sports Federation, the alliance of youth sports groups that want to lease the city's former recycling center and turn it into a sports training facility.

The City Council gave the city manager approval last September to negotiate a lease for the center, which is now only used for equipment storage.

That vote came after City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had recommended that the building instead be sold off for commercial development that would bring more tax revenue and jobs to the city. 

A staff report had suggested the property could be sold for $1.5 million and that after being converted to commercial use, it might generate $100,000 in annual property tax revenue.

By contrast, the sports groups propose to pay the city $1 a year in rent for a lease lasting 10 to 25 years.

The sports groups would provide equipment for the facility, but there's no agreement yet on several key issues, including who would pay maintenance and utlitiy costs or the cost of rebuilding the parking lot to meet ADA standards.

Alderman Ann Rainey, whose 8th Ward includes the recycling center site, said last month that she's "totally opposed" to the sports center plan.

The decision last fall to negotiate the lease was approved by aldermen on a 6-2 vote, with Rainey and Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, voting no. Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, was absent from that meeting.

Top: A planned layout for the sports center at the old recycling center, and the adjoining animal shelter presented to aldermen last fall.

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Comments

Indoor sport facility is a great idea- Give Rainey the boot

Ann Rainey has no trouble giving away money for wine bars, theaters, pancake houses, and just about every other "glamorous" project- but she consistently (and with vicious words) votes no on every community service that target children in this city- branch libraries, Chandler center, and now this. Her priorities clearly are not with the families in this town.
This facility is not currently taking in tax money, and from what I understand, a large % of the build-out is coming from private donations.  I can think of no better use than providing the youth groups in this town with a large, indoor recreation facility. 
  Didn't the aldermen discuss wanting an indoor family attraction at the Dempster/Dodge location, bowling?  Did they not just create a TIF to encourage this type of potential growth?  Yet here we have organized volunteers with a vision for a family indoor space, and the city council is not fully on board????? 
  This facility will bring more famlies to this part of town- potentially attracting business to the GFS food market which Rainey gave $100,000 to bring to town.  It will also give kids a healthy alternative to sitting inside during winter months- especially considering it's now illegal with a steep fine penalty to sled on mount trashmore.  Ironic that a kid can get caught with a joint for a $25 fine, but if you get caught sledding Trashmore it's a $500 fine!
I hope that the other alderfolks continue supporting this facility, and thanks to all the volunteers who have put in tireless hours negotiating with the city to get this space built out with donated money.
  The AYSO coaches, baseball coaches, and various sport leaders moving this project are an asset to our community, and I hope that this project works out for the benefit of all the kids in this town.
 
 
 
 
 

Back on the tax rolls

The financials provided for this proposal by the sports group are flawed, at best.  Their projections on cost structure were incomplete and underestimated to the point that calling them flawed is generous.
Make no doubt about it, this facility will cost the taxpayer money in ongoing subsidies and that need will materialize quickly once the facility opens.  Wally is correct that this should be placed back on the tax rolls, and if some for profit group wants to open a sports center, great, otherwise forget it. 
There is a difference in subsidy and investment which you don't understand.  The 100K to get GFS to build here instead of west of McCormick ave. in Skokie is money that will be paid back in about two years and forever after that creates nothing  but positive cash flow for the taxpayer for longer than any of us will be alive.  Millions upon millions of dollars in return for a short term 100K investment.  That's an intelligent move. 
The subsidy for the sports proposal is the opposite, subsidy up front and subsidy will be needed from the taxpayer going forward, again, for longer than any of us will be alive.  Put it back on the tax rolls.

subsidy versus investment

I absolutely get the difference between subsidy and investment. However, anyone who has ever made an investment with their own money would be looking weekly, monthly, yearly at the returns on not just individual investments but on the overall portfolio.
When does city council look not just at the few expenditures that succeed, but on the millions of dollars spent on grants, subsidies, studies that fail?   The papers cover the few that work out, but what about the hundreds that don't?
I don't belive the role of the city government is to make such investments with my money, our money. Their role is to take our money, and use it to provide services for those of us who live within the boundaries of the town.
From what I"ve seen here- Aside from initial build-out and buliding out a parking lot, this group is not asking for money. They are only asking to not pay property taxes on the space. Why does everyone assume that this organized sports group will fail with their own money, yet we are willing to throw collective tax money at a 20 something couple with no restaurant ownership experience to open a wine bar on HOward street? ??
Give the sports group a chance!   Give them a one time help to build out the parking lot, and then let the group fundraise and/or sell time within the space to keep it open. If they can't raise enough, they can close.
 Between AYSO, baseball, Team Evanston, and all the other sports groups that need big indoor sport space, there is for sure a demand for this in our town and families who are willing to pay extra to use it.  Many famlies already pay extra to keep the rates affordable for kids from low income families in these various groups, so it would be open for all.     This sport facility is a good tax-free  "investment" in the health of our children.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tax free?

There is nothing tax free about the proposal, tax money will be paid to "help" them build and there will be no return on that money, ever.   There is also no guarantee that future taxes will never be used to keep it afloat when the obvious financial shortfalls of their business plan become exposed.  I believe that may be an unspoken but thought about scenario by those who propose this project.  Once it's built it will be politically hard to kill, so subsidize. 
If there is such a demand as you say then it will be no problem for a for profit corporation with a realistic business plan and a real understanding of what is required to step in, buy the property at market rate, finance the buildout, charge whatever fee's they feel "demand" will support, and then pay property taxes.
Under that scenario, which does includes the #1 important fact of property taxes being paid that you have so quickly dismissed,  then City assistance for a parking lot "investment" becomes justified.
As you said, "they are only asking to not pay property taxes on the space"  is where the problem lies.  This means that the taxpayer of Evanston is losing a potential revenue stream to the tune of millions upon millions of dollars over time.  That means the taxpayer gets no relief by having those millions offset their escalating property taxes while having potential subsidy risk placed directly into their pockets.  
The idea that this is a "good tax free investment" shows again a lack of understanding of what an investment and a subsidy is. Put this property onto the tax rolls, we can all use some relief from escalating r.e. taxes and those that want to play soccer indoors in February can pay the true cost of their personal recreational choices. 

Not quite accurate, but a good idea anyway

"Yet here we have organized volunteers with a vision for a family indoor space, and the city council is not fully on board?????"
"It will also give kids a healthy alternative to sitting inside during winter months..."
That's not quite accurate. This won't be a space open to ALL children in town to use "whenever".
It will be used by various youth sports leagues. If your child is signed up for a youth sports league and the league holds practices in the wintertime, your children will use this space.
I am ambivalent, to put it mildly, about the trend toward "year round" sports. We were all a lot better off when kids played soccer and baseball in the fall and spring, and did other activities in the wintertime. However, the reality is that's where our families are at these days: year round sports is what people do.
Evanston families are driving 30 minutes to the "bubble" (a facility in Highland Park run by the City of Highland Park) to play, or are driving even farther to other facilities.
At the same time, you have FAAM basketball, which somehow has a lock on many of the D65 school gyms in Evanston from October through March, weekday evenings and Saturdays, even though much of the time FAAM does not use the space, and the gyms sit empty. FAAM's a good league, and needs space, but it doesn't need all the space it currently "owns."
In short, indoor sports space is not being well-allocated in Evanston, and even if it was well-allocated there may not be enough of it.
There is a need for this facility, and what do you know, the facility is already there, and has sat there empty for years. Now someone wants to put it to good use, and the City Manager has developed a sudden urge to sell it off during a down real estate market.
The answer here is to let the sports consortium lease the Recycling Center, insist the consortium come up with a sound financial plan for operating it, and if it's not going to bring in money for the City of Evanston through taxes or sale, insist the new facility be available to the rest of the public at certain times. It is within the power of the City Council to make this a win-win.

let them use it, lease free- public hours

Agreed with you for the most part-  When I was a child, you could also go sledding on a small hill without being met by the police telling you it's illegal with a high fine penalty.   
Public open hours are a great idea, but then the city should not ask for lease money as it truly will be open to all, at least some of the time.    There could be a compromise here for sure if city council keeps an open mind about it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

let them use it, lease free- public hours

Agreed with you for the most part-  When I was a child, you could also go sledding on a small hill without being met by the police telling you it's illegal with a high fine penalty.   
Public open hours are a great idea, but then the city should not ask for lease money as it truly will be open to all, at least some of the time.    There could be a compromise here for sure if city council keeps an open mind about it.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Rainey states Grover has a conflict of interest

Last night Ann Rainey stated Jane Grover had a conflict of interest in regards to this sport facility.  Jane's husband has been involved with this as a member of the youth groups and spoke at the council in favor of the facility. While I would agree with Rainey, Jane needs to now stay out of the discussion and vote, due to this connection, Ann appears willing to try anything to get her way.
Several council members are now stating this is a bad deal, ofcourse it is a bad deal, but how many Bad deals have they approved that have NO value to the public such as Ann's Wine and Cheese Bar on Howard street which is a complete give away of our tax dollars to a private interest.  I am not completely opposed to spending money when the money has true benifit to the public, If such a facility needs to be open, then maybe the city needs to figure out how to run it?  but given the waste, mismanagement and political corruption of the city,it appears little can be done here, that benifits the public good.
Wally who once appear to trying to get the city in control is now letting this get completely out of control. The Mayor who has shown no responsilbe fiscal leadership for years in her roles on the school board, and as a council member continues to help waste money.
One council member pointed out last night, the budget was 3 months away, and they are going to have to start laying off employees again.  Note they are not back up to pre recession revenues, appears they are 7 million short, not accounting for inflation or raises, etc, I would say about 9 million - that translates to 100 employees.
Whay haven't they laid any police and fire fighteres off,  like Stockton Cal.  which laid off 1/3 of both departments?  The answer is Wally is playig games with the budget, to keep it afloat, in a few months Wally will need to generate some real answers, i keep on wonder why the are now borrowing 16 million dollars is this going to be used to keep the city in the black?
Ann Rainey at a recent council said look at all the construction activity in town, in regards to those of us who are concerned about Bankruptcy. Ann needs to stop playing politics and look at the budget, along with the Mayor and the rest of the council members, how about asking some intelligent questions, versus just approving the consent agenda at every meeting?

Grover still has a right to vote

I wholeheartedly disagree with you on this one Ponzi-  Grover's husband is not going to make a profit off this venture, as he is volunteering his time.  He is trying to help improve our community, not make money off of us.   Therefore, Jane has every right to vote. I hope she has the strength to tell Rainey to step down, and uses her vote to support her husband. No one on that council appears to ever tell Rainey to back off. 
 I say, let the group(s) build out the space, rent them the space for $1.  However, don't give them any money to build out. Don't give them money to staff it, cool heat, clean it, etc.  If they can't pay the bills, they should close down. 
IF this project doesn't pass due to political backstabbing, I hope that some of these folks trying to organize will consider running for city council instead.   We desperately need new leadership.
 

Ethics and voting

The issue with ethics is Jane's Husband influencing her vote?   Ofcourse.   The issue here is not that the center is good or bad.  Its not the issue money is exchanging hands.  Jane is voting on use of tax payer money, so this can be looked at as an ethics issue.  Will this go to the ethnics board or become a mute point, since Rainey is trying to kill it?
Some years back a mayor took something of value from a large institution in town, ethnics issues were brought up, but the council decide to pay the institution back, thus eliminating the issue, or basically quietly covering it.
To me there are plenty of ethics problems here in the behavior of public officials, ethics and criminal issues may or may not always line up.  I see others on the council with problems, but to me the bigger issue is the council's inability to run the city in a fiscally responsible manner, ofcourse part of that maybe due to their lack of ethics..

Indoor sports facility

Evanston needs it!!!  We have so many sport youth teams that could benefit, and youth that could benefit through employment opportunities. 
I'm not a politician and I don't run a city, but it seems so crazy to me to build yet another food store, across from a food store that already exsist, and blocks away from two other food stores.
When you back up your commitment for youth in this community, I will believe it's more than just preaching.  Right now, it's a lot of talk and no action. 

We already invest in businesses...

So why not in youth sports? Although I'm certain the wine bar, theater, etc. will be profitable and having a municipally-owned facility for our children wouldn't, why not? This is what government should do - invest in its citizenry rather than some (real or imagined) businesses.
Or, let's start selling off our parks - I'll bet we could get a great price for Lake front property.

No misunderstanding- just tongue in cheek

OF course a sports facility is not an investment.  You miss my sarcasm here. I meant it's a good investment in our children, meaning sports and physically active are healthy-  The sport facility is something that is good for the community.  Since when is the only purpose of a city government to make profitable investments?!
 Our city government has literally given millions of dollars bringing in private businesses. If you want to know why your property tax bill keeps rising- start looking here. Have you ever seen the returns on ALL these private corporation grants, feasibility studies, facade improvment grants, marketing material money?   Then consider the rising costs of public sector employees, the inability of the city government to make any cuts in any public sector employees, and the lack of their ability to curb wage increases or pensions.
 Of course it will be politically difficult to kill the sports facility if it can't make the bills.   But this does not mean that the city needs to subsidize it if it fails- It's only difficult for the weak leaders we currently have, who are unable to ever say no.  As much as I disagree with Rainey on her approach and stance on most issues, at least the woman has some balls to say no.     
Yes, a for profit corporation might be able to come in and make this a for-profit sports facility.  HOwever, the low income children in this town will no longer be able to afford to go.  A for profit business would need to then cover not only the initial cost of the space, but then the rising property taxes- Not to mention that a private investor will want a return on the initial money, so they will have to charge more.
Since when is Evanston a city all about maximizing profits at the expense of the needy?
LEt the group develop it.  Let them finance it.  Give them a tax break.  IF they can't make it work out, close it down.  I'd rather take this risk than giving straight out money to a wine bar on Howard Street.  
Besides, if we keep the sport facility, the community gardens behind them will continue to be safe (rumor is that Rainey wants to salt dome moved there so that ward 8 gets more salt- This will kill the gardens).  The animal shelter will also be able to stay and expand. 
 
 
 
  

Maximizing Profits Is Evanston's Motto

@Jen - "Since when is Evanston a city all about maximizing profits at the expense of the needy?"  From what I can tell, the city is exactly about maximizing profits at the expense of the needy and this stance has been slowly building for the past 10 years or so.  I'd be so bold as to say that it really went full-bore around the time the leaders of our city government who held long-time intellectual capital on what residents wanted were offered early retirement packages.  This brought a host of new department heads in with their ideas of how to move forward.  The most prevalent belief to date is that economic development will get us out of the pension mess we are all burdened by.  Economic development and every possibility of one single dollar of revenue has been pursued with little thought to residents and our feelings.  "If we can only get thousands of people to come here from Chicago, Skokie, Wilmette, etc. and spend their money, we'll be able to get out of the mess." Nevermind that our street infrastructure doesn't support all of the extra traffic, our sidewalks are obscenely narrow and we have little in the way of bike parking at most transit locations.  We seem to be able to find revenue and spend it all with an eye toward making it pay off.  I'd like to see a tally of successful versus unsuccessful spends over the past 10 years.  We hear about the things that have paid off, but not so much about the money thrown away chasing unsuccessful ventures... 
I believe that a sports center would be a good use for the recycling center specifically because it is in a location that hosts thousands of young children year round.  Multiple schools and its proximity to James Park make it a great idea.  Robert Crown is falling down (or so we are told) so why not create a new venue at this location?  It simply makes sense.  
As a society, we all need to move back to being good neighbors and practicing a bit more of the concept of goodness for all instead of me, me, me and what I, I, I want.  Just FYI - I do not now, nor have I ever had children, but I see how this project could be a good thing.
 

Maximize those profits

Oh please, economic growth and development is the absolute ONLY way you can preserve services to everybody, needy or not.  I agree that oversized pensions and ineffective dealings with the unions are a problem, but that is a different discussion.   This is about best uses of underused/empty land with an understanding of economic reality and cost benefit analysis, not feelings of I want this and that and it's all tax free.  Thats the thinking that puts communities at risk and good riddance to the early retirees who accomodated that nonsense.
If a for profit comes in and pays the millions in r.e. taxes, then the good people who want this proposal for their personal recreation desires can step up and now raise the substantially less money to underwrite the participation of low income children, great cause, much less costly, site gets built, taxpayers still collect millions in re taxes instead of paying out untold dollars in expenses.  Better solution all around.
As far as development dollars, city has done a great job with their TIFs etc.  Most all of the monies given come from the cash generated from economic development that went well and funds the other stuff.   While not everything succeeds, and I don't think every investment is necessarily justified, overall the city is doing the right things with economic development during the last 10 years. 
Imagine how much more would be cut from the needy if those millions of extra dollars were not being generated.  Ridiculous and foolish to think economic development causes cuts to the needy when actually the opposite is true.
As for your "obscenly" narrow sidewalks, the best, widest, most flowered sidewalks in Evanston are in downtown, you know, right along any of the new economically developed buildings, you know, the ones that generate millions of r.e. tax revenue that the city uses to provide services to the needy people. 
Those sidewalks and the economic development of those buildings pretty much tells the whole story of why you're wrong and why economic development is the most important factor in all land use considerations.  Put that property onto the tax rolls.

Having differing opinions doesn't mean someone has to be wrong

Just because someone doesn't share your view, doesn't make them wrong.  I'm happy that you have an opinion of your own and I have no wish to change it, but I do have a right to voice my own opinion unmolested by your vitriol.  How about taking a step back though and not attacking a person who doesn't share your view?  
If I did share your argument of putting property back on the tax roles to generate revenue, the first property I'd consider would be along the lake front.  There are a number of parks over there that could be sold off to developers and the tax dollars generated in that area of Evanston would be far greater than the tax dollars generated in Southwest Evanston.  Property along the lakefront gives us quite a bit more bang for our buck already.  Not that I'm arguing for such a travesty... I just think your argument of putting property back on the tax roles to generate revenue merits such a viewpoint.
As for my view that downtown sidewalks are narrow, it is formed because no more than three people can walk abreast across them due to trees/large flower urns/parking meters.  When I walk in downtown with my spouse, we always end up walking single file anytime two people walk toward us.... in that we usually hold hands as we walk, this gets to be annoying.  Simply put, having to walk single file gives the impression that we do not have wide sidewalks in my opinion.... 

Really...

Can you see me playing my violin for you and your spouse because you cannot walk side by side on a sidewalk.  Please. 
Do you think there are bigger ISSUES facing Evanston!?
Pensions, budget shortfalls, debt.
Get over yourself.

economic growth is important, but government ineffective at it

Where is a portfolio of overall city expenditures for economic development for this year?  Last year? The past 5 years?
What about.....
windmill study, varsity theater study, main/chicago development, facade improvement for downtown, facade improvement for Hecky's, marketing materials for favored business districts,  money to improve front of Omni Orrington, etc. etc. ...
These are just a few of the many many ways that city council has spent our money- Half of those things never worked out at all, and the money is just gone.  The other half, I would like to see how the city collected more tax revenue thanks to the expenditures-  Did the city collect $8,000 more in taxes because HEcky's got some new masonry work?
Until city council starts keeping track of ALL economic development expenditures, both positive and negative, and publishes it for all of us tax paying investors to analyze- I think they are hardly in any position to say that the spending is effective.  
In the meantime, we have a sports group who wants to do something positive in our community.  WE are willing to pay $100,000 to Gordon FOod SErvices, $100,000+ for a wine bar, and god knows what the total on Trader Joes, but we won't let a sports facility have a chance for 0 dollars?   That recycling building is not currently collecting taxes- So it willl not be a net loss of any revenue at all right now.
 
 

economic growth is important, but government ineffective at it

Where is a portfolio of overall city expenditures for economic development for this year?  Last year? The past 5 years?
What about.....
windmill study, varsity theater study, main/chicago development, facade improvement for downtown, facade improvement for Hecky's, marketing materials for favored business districts,  money to improve front of Omni Orrington, etc. etc. ...
These are just a few of the many many ways that city council has spent our money- Half of those things never worked out at all, and the money is just gone.  The other half, I would like to see how the city collected more tax revenue thanks to the expenditures-  Did the city collect $8,000 more in taxes because HEcky's got some new masonry work?
Until city council starts keeping track of ALL economic development expenditures, both positive and negative, and publishes it for all of us tax paying investors to analyze- I think they are hardly in any position to say that the spending is effective.  
In the meantime, we have a sports group who wants to do something positive in our community.  WE are willing to pay $100,000 to Gordon FOod SErvices, $100,000+ for a wine bar, and god knows what the total on Trader Joes, but we won't let a sports facility have a chance for 0 dollars?   That recycling building is not currently collecting taxes- So it willl not be a net loss of any revenue at all right now.
 
 

What about a year round pool and a sports training facility?

I understand and agree with both sides of this issue here.
I have been involved with EBSA  and would like to see a central location for them. On the other hand, the location is a good one and I would like to see what private developers have in mind. There is a good argument that this location can bring in more much needed tax revenue.
Here's an idea: Why not work behind the scenes and try and get a private developer with the city's help to build a pool with a food stand and retractable pool roof and then use some of the property for the training facility. A private owner could run the food stand and pool and the sports group could operate the training facility. The city would get a cut in user fees and a board would be created to oversee the operation.
With the retractable roof, the pool could be used year round - something that neighboring cities don't have and would consequently draw in folks from other areas. Here's an examploe of what the roof would look like -  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQEHsHw2IA0
Evanston doesn't have a pool. Wouldn't it be great to swim year round in Evanston?
Be bold. Think big.

Pools

the city does not need a pool. we have the lake for the summer and when the beaches close
there are pools at the high school
ymca
ywca
evanston athletic club
northwestern
lifetime fitness
get a gym membership and use the pool all year long!
manon kavesky

You've got to be kidding! An

You've got to be kidding! An indoor pool with a retractable roof? You bring this very very expensive and really pie in the sky idea up as an "aternative" to using the old recycling facility for some kids to practice baseball and soccer?
Evanston has to hand out a ton of subsidies to get a grocery store, but somewhere out there is an entrepreneur who will throw millions at a project to build an indoor pool with a retractable roof in a town with many many indoor pools already serving youth that is located on Lake Michigan.
Wow.