Reversing two previous votes, the Wheeling village board on Monday granted the Wheeling Park District a license to sell beer at adult athletic events in the rebuilt Heritage Park.
Village President Dean Argiris and Trustee Mary Krueger changed their votes, joining Trustees Ray Lang and Bill Hein. Trustees Kenneth R. Brady and David Vogel voted against the license. Trustee Robert Heer did not vote because his daughter works for the park district.
Krueger, the last member of the village board to approve the license, said after the meeting that she felt better about the sales after talking with park district officials and after the village set conditions.
"I labored over it," said Krueger, who said at earlier meetings that all the residents she talked with opposed the license. "I think that once I saw some real concrete details and talked to the park district president (Keith) Pecka and Jan (Buchs, executive director. …. They answered a lot of my questions."
Krueger said she also learned that the district had special licenses before to sell beer in parks, and village officials told her the park staff had managed the events well.
Argiris, who had told Matt Wehby, the park district's director of park and recreation services, to return to the council one more time with the request, said restrictions the village imposed helped change his mind.
These include allowing customers to purchase just one beer during a transaction and the district's agreement to hire additional security personnel for larger tournaments when the police department says it is necessary. Sales will also be restricted to between noon and 9 p.m.
"You've got to work with the park district," said Argiris. "In my 14 years up here (on the village board), I don't think we've ever rejected a liquor license."
Wehby said after the meeting that beer will not be sold if youth games are going on at the same time as adult ones in the park south of Dundee Road and west of Wolf Road.
The first sales will probably be the weekend of May 17-18, he said.
The park official said beer sales are necessary to win national and regional baseball and softball tournaments for the park, and the tournaments will drive tourism.
It's like a bidding process," said Wehby. "The more amenities you can provide. … This makes us eligible to recruit tournaments."
A few tournaments are already scheduled on condition the district obtains the license, and now others will also consider Heritage Park, he said.