MetroCentre Funding

By: Alice Barr
By: Alice Barr

Rockford's MetroCentre is running low on money and it's turning to the city for help, to mixed reactions.
"The taxpayers should be upset that we're sitting up here voting on bond after bond with their money, to do things that have nothing to do with Keith Creek, have nothing to do with the drug deals that are going on in my neighborhood," says Alderman Linda McNeely.
"It is a good capital investment," counters Alderman Doug Mark.
The arena's general manager says the MetroCentre has always planned to sell its parking deck at West State and North Main to the city. Supporters say it would generate 9.9 million dollars for Rockford over the life of the bond sale repayment period. Selling the deck would help the MetroCentre pay down a 1.3 million dollar debt left over from installing the ice floor for the old IceHogs.
"We just got out of a five month shutdown, you know no income for five months. So what we're trying to do is get the ramp sold, get all this stuff cleaned up so we can get to a clean operation model to be successfull moving into the future," says MetroCentre G.M. Corey Pearson.
City finance leaders value the parking deck at 1.5 million dollars. The MetroCentre is also asking for a nearly half million dollar extension on its line of credit. Being on good financial footing is key now because next year, the center has to start paying back its portion of the 23 million dollars in bonds paying for MetroCentre renovations and the new IceHogs. But some aldermen see this as a tipping point for the arena.
"I think this is just the beginning of them being unable to meet their projections," says Alderman Holt. He also does not believe the parking deck will be a money-making venture for the city. He says the other decks Rockford owns have fallen into disrepare.
Other aldermen and Mayor Morrissey stand by the MetroCentre. They say no entertainment center of its kind can sustain itself without financial help.
"We're in the business of owning a hockey team, owning an arena because it's part of the quality of life that we want to enjoy," says Morrissey.
Aldermen laid the proposal over Monday night. They're considering whether to change the line of credit extension from a subsidy into a loan the MetroCentre would have to repay. Pearson said he does not believe would be possible. The parking deck would be paid for through a bond sale. Aldermen will pick up the issue again next week.
Also Monday night, the council's Finance and Personnel Committee approved a roughly 10 million dollar plan to buyout Rockford's most severely flood-damaged homes. The full council will get a briefing on the program next week.


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