The economic growth opportunities of a newly announced tollway interchange at Barrington Road and the continued strengthening of the Sears Centre Arena topped Hoffman Estates Mayor Bill McLeod's list Wednesday of the village's accomplishments during the past year.
McLeod gave his annual status update to members of the Hoffman Estates Chamber of Commerce in the club overlooking the Sears Centre auditorium.
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The recent approval of state funding for the full interchange at the Jane Addams Memorial Tollway and Barrington Road was touted as the village's biggest victory of the year -- not only for the amount of work that went into it but the positive impact expected for decades to come.
"Getting the tollway interchange was like Captain Ahab and the white whale," McLeod said. "It was something we had worked on for a long time."
McLeod interspersed his address with video of Gov. Pat Quinn announcing the state's commitment to the $68 million project a few weeks ago at St. Alexius Medical Center.
Quicker emergency access to the medical center is considered as important if not more so than the general transportation and economic improvements the tollway interchange will bring, McLeod said. As such, Alexian Brothers Health System is contributing $1 million to the village's $5 million share of the project.
The interchange is expected to raise the value of surrounding land, which may even inspire Meijer to build its long-delayed store on Barrington Road north of the tollway, McLeod said.
So far, Meijer has refused to sell the land, saying it may still build its store one day, he added. But while the delay is frustrating, nothing has been lost, McLeod said.
"I look at vacant land as an opportunity," he said.
Because Ace Hardware left Hoffman Estates in anticipation of the Meijer store that never arrived, the village has been trying to find a new hardware store ever since.
"It's very frustrating to have to go to another town to buy stuff," McLeod said.
The mayor also spoke about the increasing success of the Sears Centre under the management of Global Spectrum, a subsidiary of Comcast.
General Manager Ben Gibbs said that since the firm took over Sears Centre management in 2010, it has booked 355 events, attracted 1.2 million visitors and on average exceeded its annual revenue budget by $373,000.
In 2013 alone, the arena generated $640,000 in new business and increased its event revenue by 17 percent, beyond that of sports teams based there.
"We don't wait for inbound calls," Gibbs said. "It's outbound, all the time."
USA Gymnastics' US Secret Classic is coming to the Sears Centre later this year and the Big Ten Women's Basketball Tournament will return in 2015 after proving a big success in 2013. Gibbs said he's working to make Hoffman Estates as much the permanent home of the tournament as Indianapolis was for nearly 20 years.
Among events such as a Halloween haunted house and Northwest Fourth Fest -- the largest free Fourth of July festival in the Northwest suburbs -- word of mouth is creating new opportunities for Hoffman Estates, McLeod said.
Though Hanover Park and Elgin dropped out as partners on Northwest Fourth Fest for 2014, McLeod said he prefers to view that decision as temporary. He said he spoke to a Hanover Park trustee who said next year may be a different story if snow removal costs return to normal.
Though having fewer partners undoubtedly will raise festival costs for the village this year, McLeod said he doesn't believe visitors will notice any difference.