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updated: 1/27/2010 8:12 AM

Convention center pondered for former Lakehurst mall site

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Could the former Lakehurst Shopping Center site in Waukegan become the home of a $70 million convention center?

The multipurpose center would host major conventions, trade shows, concerts, athletics and other events while creating 700 jobs, according to Angelo Kyle, a Lake County Board member from Waukegan.

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"With the high unemployment in our area, it's a perfect location to rejuvenate economic development," Kyle said.

The proposal is scheduled to be outlined Wednesday at a news conference.

But the event is not on Waukegan Mayor Bob Sabonjian's calendar, and the proposal is considered just that at this point.

"There have been preliminary meetings on the concept but nothing finalized or close to finalized," said David Motley, the city's director of public relations and marketing.

A new release issued Tuesday named Great Lakes Entertainment LLC as developers of the Lake County Convention Center, which would be built over the next two years at what is now known as Fountain Square near routes 120 and 43.

Lakehurst closed in 2001 and was demolished in 2004. It was the proposed site of a casino until the 10th and final state license was awarded in 2008 for a facility in Des Plaines.

Kyle said he was approached by developers, including Great Lakes managing partner Arlee Williams, the son of the former owner of the Lake County Chiefs Chicagoland Football League team.

"They were interested in building a facility in Lake County and asked my assistance to do so," Kyle said.

Meetings were arranged with Waukegan city officials and Lake County Partners, the county's economic development arm, Kyle said.

Nothing has been submitted for the city's development commission to consider, Motley said.

Kyle said the facility would be a smaller version of an Allstate Arena-style facility. In a news release Tuesday, Williams said the facility would become home to sports franchises, concerts, local high school and recreational events, as well as motor sports, boxing and wrestling.

According to Kyle, financing would be a combination of: county recovery zone facility bonds, part of the federal stimulus package and managed by Lake County Partners; tax incremental financing district funds from Waukegan; and private financing.

"Everything just fell together," Kyle said.

He is challenging incumbent 60th District state Rep. Eddie Washington for the Democratic nomination Feb. 2. Washington could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening.

Williams, a Milwaukee resident who grew up in Waukegan, said the "necessary applications" have been submitted to the city and county.

Lake County is qualified for $60 million in bonds. A Lake County Partners staffer who deals with the bond program was not available Tuesday afternoon.

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