Gurnee approves $200,000 incentive for radio stations to move to Gurnee Mills
Four radio stations are set to move to Gurnee Mills after the village board voted Monday to pay their owner $200,000 over three years to offset renovation costs.
The radio stations on the move are two Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin-based stations -- WIIL 95.1-FM and WLIP 1050-AM -- and two based in Waukegan -- WKRS ESPN Deportes 1220-AM and WXLC 102.3-FM.
The plan first came before the village board in February 2018, when the village agreed to essentially the same plan, albeit for a lower sum. That plan called for the village to pay Alpha Media $93,600.
Karl Wertzler, the general manager of the stations, said the amount of the incentive changed because the initial estimate didn't take into account the unique renovations needed to accommodate a radio operation.
Wertzler said it took more than a year for the plan to come back to the board because Alpha Media needed to part with its existing buildings in Waukegan and Wisconsin as well as secure funding for the renovations. The renovations are expected to cost a total of $847,000. In addition to the $200,000 the village is paying, Simon Property Group, the company that owns Gurnee Mills, will pay $600,000 and Alpha Media will cover the rest.
"This has been a journey to get where we are for this approval tonight," Wertzler said. "We have been through a lot and we're thrilled to be here now and we can't wait to get into the new digs."
Alpha Media's space will be on the north side of the mall and will include the spaces currently occupied by Latin Snacks and Dollar World. Randy Ebertowski, the general manager of Gurnee Mills, said the mall is working on relocating those two businesses now and they will give the space to Alpha Media on June 1.
When the renovations are done, mall patrons will be able to watch the radio broadcasters. Wertzler said he hopes the radio stations will be operating by late 2019 or early 2020. He said business offices and other facilities likely will be ready before the studios. "The studios take a little longer to build and develop and so forth with all the electronics involved," Wertzler said.
Mayor Kristina Kovarik said she thought radio stations' arrival will be the best thing to come to the mall since Macy's. Ebertowski agreed.
As part of the agreement, Alpha Media will host at least 32 events at the mall each year, which officials hope will increase foot traffic at the mall and ultimately increase the village's sales tax revenues. The radio stations also run will ads for the village.
"I can't say how excited we are to be doing this," Ebertowski said after the meeting. "I think that the work that Alpha Media is going to do is going to be phenomenal for Gurnee Mills and the village."