Stephens asks for state money for convention center

Updated 5/28/2013 1:25 PM
  • Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens is asking for state money to help renovate the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

      Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens is asking for state money to help renovate the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center. Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

SPRINGFIELD -- Rosemont Mayor Bradley Stephens Tuesday asked the state for $210 million in state taxes over 30 years to renovate the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center.

Stephens told an Illinois House committee that the money would be made up by taxes generated from a new Rosemont fashion outlet mall that is set to generate $23 million for the state every year.

The Fashion Outlets of Chicago will have more than 120 stores and is set to open Aug. 1.

Stephens said the convention center named for his late father is in need of renovation in order to attract top-tier entertainment.

"The convention center on the inside needs some upgrading," Stephens said. "The ceiling heights are low. We need to raise those ceiling heights to be able to attract some of these shows that are now going to these pretty convention centers in Indianapolis and in Cleveland and in Jacksonville, Fla."

Stephens' request comes at a time when officials from Chicago's McCormick Place are trying to raise funds to build additional convention space and a large arena to house DePaul University basketball, a team that currently plays home games at Rosemont's Allstate Arena.

Despite that, Stephens said he does not see McCormick Place as a threat to the Convention Center.

"I think there's a real opportunity to coexist with McCormick Place and feed off each other, whether it's a show that outgrows our facility or one too small for McCormick Place that properly fits in our convention center," he said.

State Rep. Dave McSweeney, a Barrington Hills Republican, said the state is in no fiscal shape to help Rosemont.

"You have the same credit rating, actually a better credit rating, than some state agencies of the state of Illinois," McSweeney said. "Can't you fund this project without help from the insolvent state of Illinois?"

Stephens responded that he didn't believe so.

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