Responding to protests from residents, the Wheeling village board Monday rejected a request from the Wheeling Park District to sell beer at an upcoming event in the rebuilt Heritage Park.
The village board voted 4-3 against granting a liquor license for the sale of beer at an adult softball tournament planned for the park April 4-6.
Trustees who voted against the license said they see the park primarily as a place for health and recreation.
"I am not comfortable with alcohol being added to that mix," said Trustee Mary Krueger, who was joined by Village President Dean Argiris and trustees Kenneth R. Brady and David Vogel in opposing beer sales at the park.
Voting in favor of the license were trustees Robert Heer, Bill Hein and Ray Lang.
The park's new athletic complex, which features four artificial turf fields and a two-story concession stand, is among the first parts of a $38 million park renovation to be complete. The work, funded primarily by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, also includes construction of seven basins at the 100-acre park to hold stormwater runoff from the Des Plaines River.
Argiris said softball players told him selling beer at the park would hurt their ability to get sponsorships from restaurants and bars who expect the teams to gather at their places after games.
"We welcome you bringing people into town, but we want them to spend money at our businesses," he said.
Brien Halterman, athletic programs and facilities manager for the park district, said the district plans about six adult softball tournaments this year.
Amy Rivas, the park district's director of human resources and risk management, disputed Argiris' claim the village had not received enough information about plans for safely providing beer. She said park district staff had submitted a thick packet to the village in December. Among the district's plans, Rivas said, was to have trained staff aged 21 and older stationed on the walkways that run from the concession building to the fields to monitor sales and alcohol use.
Police Chief William Benson said he had no concerns about beer sales now while the park is still under construction.
"I have concerns about a regular licensing on a long-term regular basis," he added. "I have concerns about youth and alcohol and control."
To see the full Heritage Park plan and read updates on its progress, visit Heritageparkproject.info.