LOVES PARK -- Governor Pat Quinn today was joined by local government, business, civic and labor leaders to announce $3.1 million in state investments to expand sporting facilities in the Rockford area. The Governor also launched construction of the region's Reclaiming First initiative, to help boost tourism in the Rockford area. Today's action is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to promote recreation and sports tourism in Illinois.
"Sporting events are an integral part to any community and also a huge driver of the local economy," Governor Quinn said. "Government and community leaders in the Rockford area know this, and are paving the way to the future with these world-class facilities that will attract competitors and spectators from around the globe."
Governor Quinn announced a $2.5 million investment of Parks and Recreational Facility Construction (PARC) funds to expand the Indoor Sports Center at the Sportscore Two complex in Loves Park. The 115,000-square-foot building and parking lot will be connected to the existing Indoor Sports Center and will include three multi-purpose synthetic turf fields for soccer, softball, baseball, football, lacrosse and other turf related programs. The investment is part of $50 million available through PARC, which is funded by Governor Quinn's Illinois Jobs Now! construction program. The Rockford Park District has been awarded a $641,000 Tourism Attraction Development Grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Bureau of Tourism.
The Rockford Park District investment assists in the development and improvement of tourist attractions in Illinois which, in turn, helps boost the tourism business and provide economic impact for the state. The investment will help pay for costs associated with improvements to Wedgbury Stadium, located at Sportscore Two, and Phase one of the Reclaiming First initiative which totals $30 million. Reclaiming First is a multi-year initiative to retain, regain and grow the valuable amateur sports tourism market in the Rockford region.
Governor Quinn last year signed legislation that allowed Winnebago County to impose a 2 percent hotel-motel tax to help the county and its municipalities expand their regional athletic facilities. This legislation is a major reason why construction is moving forward on the Reclaiming First initiative. The improvements funded by the law are expected to increase visitor spending by $15 million, create hundreds of new jobs and generate significant new tax revenue. Including past state funding for land acquisition and construction, Governor Quinn has committed nearly $2 million to date toward the project.
"We are thankful for Governor Quinn's commitment to the Reclaiming First initiative, and his continued support of the Rockford region, which has long been recognized as a leader in the amateur sports market," Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke said. "This kicks-off the start of several construction related projects that will be built by local contractors with local labor, financed by local banks and provide a significant impact to the local economy through additional tourism and permanent jobs. The multi-facility, multi-year project will stimulate our regional economy and provide world-class recreational facilities to our citizens."
The modernization of Sportscore Two begins with upgrades to Wedgbury Stadium, making it the premier sports tournament destination. These improvements will exceed current industry standards, which will aid in attracting even more international and national competitions and tournaments. The new state-of-the-art facility will allow the Rockford Park District to seek a FIFA (Fdration Internationale de Football Association) certificate. FIFA standards for sports turf systems are designed to ensure that a consistent world-class standard of surface is available internationally. The facility will also include an NCAA professional level lighting system, new pathways, restroom building and upgrades to the bleachers and press box. Construction is expected to be complete by fall 2014.
Wedgbury Stadium, which seats 2,000 spectators, has hosted IHSA State High School Soccer Finals, pro football games, National Rugby Finals, college rugby championships, professional soccer games with international teams from Mexico and USSL W. League Soccer Men's and Women's Finals.
"The recent approvals to move forward with phase one of the Reclaiming First initiative is a huge accomplishment for the Rockford Region," Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO John Groh said. "We are well on our way to creating more than 250 more jobs, and generating an additional estimated $15 million into the local economy by attracting more local, regional, national and international sports events to our region. We are moving in the right direction and we thank all who have believed in the possibilities."
Additional improvements soon to come include adding six turf and multi-purpose lighted fields to Sportscore Two, and expanding the Indoor Sports Center to create a total of five indoor soccer fields.
The Reclaiming First initiative is led by board/council members and chief elected officials and staff leaders from the Rockford Park District, Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, City of Rockford, City of Loves Park, Village of Machesney Park, City of South Beloit, Village of Rockton, Village of Roscoe, Village of Cherry Valley, and Winnebago County. For additional information on Reclaiming First, visit www.reclaimingfirst.org .