Monday, May 25, 2009

Peoria Park District Financial Bind

The clay tennis courts opened Friday last week. By Sunday they were in poor shape, somewhat like playing on modified dirt. The Peoria Tennis Association just contributed $2300.00 to the PPD to keep all seven of these clay courts open for public use. Some will say since they are "public" and free, what is there to complain about?

A little history. Since the park has tennis courts in several locations, the park found it was not possible to come close to breaking even if they charged a usage fee and had a paid fee collector at each location. So they offer use of the courts for free. Just like they do for most of the nine thousand of acres owned by the park including picnic, fishing, ball diamonds, playground and hiking areas.

Over the 20 some years I have been playing tennis, we have gone through years of good courts and good people maintaining the courts, terrible courts and decent courts. Now with the clay courts themselves in poor condition this early in the season, dry weather will turn the meager spread of clay to dust by the time of the first PTA tournaments. Also the courts used and paid for by Woodruff High School are in poor condition. Other hard courts are developing cracks and showing wear. The cracks will only get wider after another hard freezing and thawing period.

As an aside, I note the land swap with Bradley University; Meinen Field (now Shea Stadium) for 40 acres of land out at the corner of Fox Road and Rt. 91, never took place. The land swapped at $13,000 an acre is still farmland owned by Bradley who in turn probably accepts subsidies from the U.S. government (Bradley received subsidies from the government of $183,600 just for properties in Peoria County alone) for this land Bradley got title to Shea Stadium, the park district has title to nothing. I heard they received some cash in the swap but I saw no record of it in their financial statement. And into what fund the money was entered??

Also, in 2008, PPD took bids opened Sept 4 approximately to develop a sports complex with #150 on the far north side of Peoria Stadium. To date, no ground has been broken.

In 2003, Park Board President Tim Cassidy and Administrators Bonnie Noble (salary of approximately $135,000 per year plus benefits including a pension) promised to have a new softball complex to rival Eastside so that the PPD could host national tournaments along with Eastside attracting thousand more spenders and hotel users to the area. National and worldwide girls softball tournaments are a huge draw with strong financial benefits to the community.

It has been a continuation of broken promises.

Also, Dave Bielfeldt, sent out an appeal to the public to make up the deficit of $5 million needed to complete the new zoo entrance and parking facilities. With the zoo opening in less than two weeks, I observe neither.

As I predicted in 2003, the park was over-reaching and proof of this over-reach is apparent as they are unable to complete, build or maintain as promised. Over the years, park officials have stated time and time again that they are in strong financial shape. Even brought an accounting firm down from Chicago to prove it. Facts appear these days to present themselves as otherwise.

One last fact, although there are many more such facts as the historic cannons (cannon?) at Glen Oak Lagoon slipping off their foundations, is that some of the new parks have neither toilet or water such as at Becker Park.

A skateboard park was promised publicly in 2003. Can you find it?

And, oh yes, is it because the the large amounts the PPD pays to the JS in advertising that NONE of these facts have been researched except a large spread by columnist Tery Bibo filled with many half truths and information that never touched on the problem areas? I hope not. JS Sports writer Dave Eminian, thanks Dave, of the JS wrote a three part series titled "Youth Sports- IT BARELY plays in Peoria". Daves series ran for three issues of the JS and elicited many comments critical of the PPD recreation department management that I believe resulted in one manager leaving (wrong one or both) for a new job. Eminian's JS spreads started on July 15,2007, taking the PPD to task for failing to do many of the things I've summarized above and in some of my earlier blogs dated August 21, 2008, titled "Peoria Park Update - Softball", on 7/22/07 and 7/19/07, I blogged "PPD Problems" I blogged "Some Observations PPD" on 10/20/05, on 2/2/06, I blogged "Softball in Peoria" and on 2/1/06, I blogged "Exaggerations, Falsehoods or Visionaries" concerning the PPD.

All interesting reading and all information true. Challenges accepted.

In the meantime, since I play with the PTA, I'll keep the PTA aware as interested others the conditions of the courts as the year progresses.


Anonymous said...


well that tough their is no money

do you know a bank in champaign illinois was closed had 16 percent of the market, a billion dollars in assets, went bad

strategic capital 12 % unemployment in peoria

I think your doing weed

rusty0707 glory

Merle Widmer said...

I'll let the reader decide "who is doing weed".


Cal Skinner said...

What's #150?

Anonymous said...

I think parks in general are weak in Illinois. I try to frequent our cheesehead state to the north of us as much as possible. Missouri has an excellent array and park system. But locally, PPD is pretty much of a laugher and I am glad a journalist like D. Emian(sp) will publically expose it. As a matter of fact he is not afraid to praise/criticize the state as it affects the outdoor recreation and hunters of Illinois.

Anonymous said...

I left the above comment.


Merle Widmer said...


Peoria Public School System #150.

Dr. Thompson said...

Why is someone at the Park District making 135k?

Public employee salaries continue to astound me.