UPDATE: House Committee Advances Reclaiming First Bill

By: Jorge Rodas; Shannon Smith Email
By: Jorge Rodas; Shannon Smith Email
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WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- A House Committee advanced a measure to support the expansion of Winnebago County's recreation and tourism industry, designed to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

The bill would let Winnebago County increase its hotel tax by 2% to help pay for expanding and upgrading three sports complexes in the area. The Reclaiming First project would upgrade Sportscore 1 and 2 and turn the Ingersoll building into a riverside indoor sports complex.

The Senate has already passed the bill. The bill will now move on to the full House. It would then go to the Governor’s Desk.


WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- State Senator Steve Stadelman helped pass a bill through the Senate today that would let Winnebago County increase its hotel tax by 2% to help pay for expanding and upgrading three sports complexes in the area.

The hotel tax Reclaiming First project would upgrade Sportscore 1 and 2 and turn the Ingersoll building into a riverside indoor sports complex. The city says they’re hoping the proposed upgrades will bring more sports tournaments to the Stateline. According to Senator Stadelman’s office, Rockford has been losing money each year because of a lack of amateur sports tournaments. They say the proposed bill could raise nearly $13 million for the project that’s expected to cost over $40 million.

"Sports tourism is a big industry in the Rockford area and it benefits in so many ways as far as not only having tournaments come here and people spend money at restaurants and local facilities...but also have upgraded facilities that local people can enjoy,” said Stadelman.

Rockford Park District director Tim Dimke says upgrading Sportscore’s grass fields to sports turf would have allowed the Puma Cup tournament go on as planned this weekend. Those upgrades are part of the proposed project. Senator Stadelman says the bill passed through the Senate with overwhelming support.

It may be a couple of weeks before the House votes on the measure. Local representatives say it should have a lot of support and pass through. It would then go to the Governor’s Desk.


UPDATE: SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to move a proposal to make Rockford the Midwest recreational sports destination forward, today the Senate passed a measure allowing Winnebago County to impose a 2 percent tax on hotel stays. It is estimated that this new tax, which would be shouldered by out-of-town visitors, would generate $13 million for the project.

“Currently in Rockford, hotel guests pay a 12 percent tax at checkout. But surrounding areas like Peoria and Galesburg have a 13 percent tax, and Chicago has a 16.4 percent tax. So Rockford will still be competitive in attracting tourists,” Stadelman said.

The Reclaiming First proposal transitions the former Ingersoll building into a riverside indoor sports complex, while making improvements to Sportscore One and Two. The project, Reclaiming First, was introduced in December 2011 and has rallied support from across Winnebago County and the surrounding area.

“The majority, if not all, of the estimated $37.5 million needed in funding for the new project would come from non-local sources including grants, charitable contributions and state funding,” continued Stadelman.

Since 2007, Rockford’s amateur sports tournaments have dropped 11 percent annually, resulting in $1.4 million loss for the region each year. In an effort to turn this downward trend around, local economic development and city planners, elected officials, business owners and labor leaders collaborated on a proposal that would not only bring back Rockford’s declining sports tournaments, but expand resources to make Rockford the amateur sports tournament capital of the Midwest.

The measure now moves on to the House for further consideration.


WINNEBAGO COUNTY (WIFR) -- An Illinois Senate Committee is taking on legislation that allows Winnebago County to raise the hotel tax, which would help fund improvements to area sports venues.

Despite several failed attempts, lawmakers are a bit more optimistic about the Reclaiming First bill.
It may be tough to book a hotel room in Rockford next year. A plan to improve area facilities is expected to attract several new sports tournaments to the area, something hotel manager Katie Haun says will give a much needed boost to local hotels and restaurants.

“Our winter months are generally kind of slow, so this would mean tournaments in the winter, that would be huge,” Haun said.

It’s all part of the reclaiming first bill, which would raise Winnebago County’s hotel tax from 12% to 14%. That money would pay for $43 million dollars in expansions to sports core one and two, with some money going towards renovations of the Ingersoll building. A senate committee rejected the idea in January, but legislators say they’re more confident the bill will pass this time around.

“Today really culminates a couple of years’ worth of work, a measure that will mean a lot to the Rockford region because it will keep our Sports Core two as the top soccer facility in the nation.”

It’s not just sold out hotel rooms, it could also mean 250 more jobs locally.

Now it’s up to Springfield to re-claim those jobs and pass the law. The bill is now headed for the Senate floor and then must be approved by the House. State Senator Dave Syverson hopes to have it completely passed by May.


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