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Tinley Park's park district has ambitious plans for mental health center land, including domed soccer field, as it competes with village
The SouthtownStar - 12/7/2022
Dec. 7—Several multipurpose athletic fields, a domed regulation-size soccer field and a stadium with a running track are among ideas Tinley Park's park district is proposing as it looks to buy and redevelop state-owned property Tinley Park officials are also keen on acquiring.
The park district Wednesday released tentative plans for the 280-acre site, northwest of Harlem Avenue and 183rd Street, that was previously the home of the Tinley Park Mental Health Center and adjacent Howe Developmental Center.
The park district is far from gaining ownership of the property, and no estimate of possible costs for the ambitious project have yet been made, said Shawn Roby, the district's executive director.
Along with serving village residents, the proposed sports complex could host regional youth sports tournaments, drawing visitors to Tinley Park who would stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants, Roby said.
"The ultimate goal here is to generate revenue," Roby said. "Think about what you will pick up in sales tax, hotel tax."
The village of Tinley Park had also considered a large-scale youth sports complex to attract tournaments, noting the potential tax revenue, but plans did not advance.
Some type of recreational aspect, such as an indoor ice skating rink, along with other entertainment options are among redevelopment plans the village has envisioned, according to Pat Carr, village manager.
"We've been trying to develop this for the last 10 years," he said Wednesday.
Although the village doesn't own the property, it would, should that change, be in the position to determine zoning of the land. The property is zoned for offices and light industry, such as warehousing and distribution.
"It is not zoned for a park," Carr said. "We control the zoning there."
There are also multiple environmental issues with the property, including soil contaminated with mercury and lead, leaking underground storage tanks, asbestos and black mold. Also, there are several buildings on the property, some of them rather large, that would likely have to be demolished before any redevelopment takes place.
Roby said district officials are aware of the environmental obstacles, but that "we do not have clarity about the condition of the site," as far as the worst conditions.
He said he hoped the park district would not have to shoulder the costs of remediation on its own.
"We want to work with our partners in the state to clean up the site," Roby said.
An estimate made several years ago by a Tinley Park consultant put the cost at remediating the site's environmental issues and razing dozens of buildings at $12.4 million, but village officials suspect that cost has increased.
The site is in a tax increment financing district, and property tax revenue generated in the district through redevelopment could be used to pay for those site preparation costs, such as environmental remediation.
The state had put out a notice last month, as it does annually, of surplus property it is trying to sell, including the mental health center property.
Both the park district and village have indicated to the Illinois Department of Central Management Services, which controls the site, that they are interested in acquiring the property.
The village last year agreed to pay $4.5 million for the property, but the deal required approval from the state legislature, which did not materialize.
Roby said the park district didn't cite a specific dollar amount it is willing to pay.
"We are willing to pay fair market value, but I don't know if anybody knows what that is," he said.
He said the park district anticipates learning early next year whether it will be considered as a buyer.
Roby said the park district, should it be in a position to buy the land, would look at sources such as grants and public-private partnerships for its redevelopment plans. He said that a bond sale has not been ruled out.
"You can never say anything is off the table," he said.
Last month, the Park Board approved two bond sales totaling $2.1 million, with the proceeds being used to pay for park land acquisition, although it did not specify the state-owned site.
Roby said Wednesday that while the bond proceeds "are not earmarked specifically for that project that could be a use for them."
According to the park district, the first phase of redevelopment would encompass about 90 acres, just west of Harlem Avenue, that would include a playground and sports facilities for people with special needs.
A rough sketch of the plans, which Roby said will likely be revised over time, includes six multipurpose sports fields and five baseball fields.
A proposed domed sports complex with a full-size soccer field would be located on the north side of the property, near the 80th Avenue Metra station, according to the tentative layout.
A splash pad, concession stands, picnic areas and a pond are also part of the park district's proposal.
Roby said the project would also create more playing space for Tinley Park's youth sports organizations, the Bobcats and Bulldogs.
A stadium with a running track could also be used by the village's schools for track and field practices and events, he said.
Roby said the tentative proposal came after meetings the last "year and a half or so" with school district officials and youth sports teams about what they would like on the property.
Carr said the village wants to have revenue-generating development on the property.
"It's always been in our plan to have some sporting facility out there, but through a private developer," he said Wednesday.
He said the village has had discussions in the past with the park district about the property, but noted nothing can happen, as far as the village's plans, until it has ownership of the site.
"It has always been our intent to work with the park district once we acquired the property," Carr said.
Roby said the park district has enjoyed a good relationship with the village and looks to partner with village officials as plans advance.
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