Nothing major has been built in Peoria that has lived up to projections in the last 15 years. Starting with the $23 million downtown privately owned minor league baseball stadium financed partially by somewhere in the vicinity of 8 million taxpayer dollars; then needed to be bailed out recently by the City Council, forgiving about $1.6 million debt. All taxpayer dollars.
Next came the RiverPlex which was supposed to be self-supporting according to the Superintendent and Park Board President. Only to find out it could not pay off the note to build the entity that competing strongly with the private sector and had to extend the note payments an additional 6 years. The drain on park finances prevented the building, the highly promised by Cassidy and Noble, major league softball complex to host national tournaments. Even though the land to build on was part of a trade between Bradley U. and the PPD; Meinen Field where Bradley soccer is now located for 40 acres of land Bradley (part of 162 acre deal that Bradley paid an unprecedented $13,000 an acre) located at the corner of Rt. 91 and Fox Rd.for the PPD to build this widely promised sports complex.
The RiverPlex drain on park resources also resulted in large increases in fees; one example are park shelters that a few years ago cost $25 to rent are now $75 and caused the cancelling of at least one previous free event. This drain also caused a high neglect of erosion as witnessed by the growing delta of soil on the west side of the Illinois River. Now the park is running a greater deficit and will need to close a golf course (park golf courses always made a profit in the past) or close Central Pool. The PPD has used up all but $500,000 of reserves that stood at over $3,000,000 just a short time ago
The highly touted African Zoo with a redesigned entry off Prospect with a widely illustrated new signage never happened. In fact, the Glen Barton Foundation had to contribute the resources to build the new entry and souvenir building..Attendance is published to be only 200,000 a year up from 170,000 before the $32 million expansion. The park, intended for family events, sought and secured a liquor license to hold weddings, etc. all in competition with the private taxpaying sector.
The museum attendance projected to be 240,000 a year drew 157,000 thru the June 30, 2014 or was it through the calendar year ending December 30, 2013?? PRM figures have always been difficult to obtain and to my knowledge, they do not have a certified audit. The JS reported the financial loss to be $600,000 but hastened to say "this was not taxpayer dollars" but then failed to say where the money then came from to cover this deficit. If it came from the Endowment Fund, which the public does not know how much is really in this fund, and the public does not know that through an accounting maneuver, about one-half the endowment came from the 1/4% sales tax which is indeed public dollars. The museum project itself, reputed to cost $99,000,000 was funded by approximately 67% taxpayer dollars when it was promised to be supported by just 33% taxpayer dollars.
Now we have the Civic Center reporting a deficit of 9 times projections ($875,000.00) with attendance falling from 640,000 to 520,000. An amazing drop during a reputed growing nationwide economy.
Then we have the Gateway Building, last reported losing $500,000 a year, the failed Technology Center downtown, the growing of what appears to be somewhat of a scandal on who owes what on the highly touted Marriott Courtyard, where I for one,, anxiously await the census figures as the Peoria taxpayers were put in the position of backing $30 some million of construction loans.
Should I even mention the NOW projected deficit at Peoria Public School District #150 as being an astounding $12,000,000.00 with loans outstanding for up to 30 years. Or the Peoria City Council debt in the millions with a sales tax shortage this year of $1.5 million, taxes needed to meet the debt on the museum and some shaky information coming out of the Peoria County Board who, as most of the public is unaware, owns the highly under performing riverfront museum.
Then there is the Warehouse District that is expected to bring 'booko' new residents to revitalize the down town that none of the big projects have so far failed to do. Again, projections, none of which have been met in the past 15 years.
You won't find all I blog in the media. But I have kept extensive files on every projected mentioned here. All is not what the IB and others write is true about this river city if you also look at the condition of our public streets, the growing number of empty commercial buildings and the abandoned houses all over certain parts of the city.
I myself am an optimist or I could never have started the company 50 years ago now know as Widmer/Interiors located on north Allen Road in Peoria. Unfortunately, my realism has not won me a lot of friends as witnessed by the JS and some other media who are never interested in "the rest of story".
Been going on for over the past 15 years so I'm pretty much used to it. The old saying of "don't let the facts get in your way" were never truer as Don Axt so aptly put it several times in LTEs to the JSEB over the years..