Why Schaumburg Park District wants to exit as co-owner of Boomers Stadium
Schaumburg Park District's executive director says projected personnel cost increases and a desire to have more money available for a core mission of providing leisure and recreation opportunities are behind a proposal to end a joint venture with the village in ownership of Boomers Stadium.
Village government and the park district have co-owned the stadium since it opened as Alexian Field in 1999. The Schaumburg Boomers independent baseball team is the main tenant.
Tony LaFrenere, the parks boss, said the district spends an average $250,000 annually for its share of Boomers Stadium maintenance. He said the district, which has 100 full-time employees and roughly 1,000 part-timers at peak summer season, already is preparing for extra expenditures due to Illinois' minimum wage gradually increasing to $15 an hour by 2025,
Projections show the park district will need an additional $3.5 million for personnel over the next five years. He said exiting as a co-owner of Boomers Stadium would help the park district become more efficient and contribute to an overall control of expenses.
At a meeting Tuesday night, the Schaumburg village board approved a package of agenda items including a document authorizing pursuit of an agreement with the park district on Boomers Stadium. A deal would allow the park district to transfer its half-ownership of the stadium and adjacent parking lots to the village.
Mayor Tom Dailly said it would be "very positive" for the village to address potential upgrades or other stadium issues as sole owner.
"We have some ideas of things we'd like to do, but does it really work with what the Boomers envision going forward?" Dailly said after the meeting. "So, this will be easier now. Now, we don't have to have three parties involved, you have two parties, and go from there."
LaFrenere said compared to the park system, the village has more flexible revenue streams that could be used for the stadium. He added that property taxes generate about half the park district's income, with the balance from user fees for fitness programs, camps and other areas.
"We're in the recreation facility operations business where we're charging a fee for the service we are providing, whereas the village is much more in the economic development business," he said. "Their core mission is related to making sure economic activities happen in the community that spur on other economic activities."
LaFrenere said the most recent park district community survey shows residents want a focus on health and wellness initiatives, such as walking trails and fitness and exercise facilities.
"As we move forward, we want to make sure we sharpen where we're expending our dollars and make sure it goes toward our core mission statement," he said. "Top of the list for us was the Community Recreation Center. Our biggest community center was the one that the residents wanted us to continue to reinvest in."
Last year, village officials endorsed a four-year, $10.5 million plan to upgrades at the stadium. The work would have included a year-round, sports-themed restaurant, new seats and replacement of the ballpark's natural grass with artificial turf to increase the number of events it can host throughout the year. But those plans were dropped in January, amid uncertainty over funding and the new Chicago Dogs minor league team in Rosemont having less impact on Boomers' attendance than feared.
Schaumburg Village Manager Brian Townsend said a tentative agreement should be ready for a board committee discussion next week. Park board members are scheduled to address the stadium issue at a meeting Thursday night.