Public knowledge about a proposed sports complex in Troy is scarce because city officials have kept discussions under wraps in closed-session meetings or informal discussions for the past year and a half.
But Mayor Allen Adomite said the city hasn’t made any decisions on whether to move forward with the project or buy land for it, and so details on the project don’t need to be made public. Discussions about whether to buy property for a public facility are allowed to happen in closed meetings as part of the Illinois Open Meetings Act.
The city has so far spent $40,000 on preliminary engineering services for the multisport complex project that could eventually cost upward of $1.4 million to build, according to a proposal from the dome manufacturer. The complex would take the form of a “sports dome,” or a dome supported by internal pressurized air that inflates a flexible plastic material.
The dome could be used year-round for multiple sports, including baseball, basketball, soccer or other activities. Arizon has not yet completed the preliminary engineering study, according to Adomite.
The mayor said the city has been considering for the past 18 months the potential “destination sports complex” to spur economic development in the community’s I-55/70 corridor.
“Significant changes in the retail market, including the popularity of online retail, are changing the availability of opportunities for commercial development,” Adomite said in an email to the BND.
Missouri-based Arizon Building Systems began engineering services for the project after city aldermen gave them the go-ahead in April in a special City Council meeting. The city would pay the rest of the bill in separate payments, contingent upon approval from City Council.
Other than approving money for engineering services, discussions about the proposed project have taken place behind closed doors. Until “potential property acquisition” is complete, the mayor says he can’t comment further on the project.
“Those discussions will happen in front of the public when we figure out if it’s feasible or not,” Adomite said.
Former alderman Regina Dunbar Hendrickson, an open critic of the mayor, said she thinks the city has kept the project under wraps because officials don’t want the public to know about it unless it succeeds.
“It’s overwhelming, the amount of money the city spends on engineering that never evolves to anything,” Dunbar Hendrickson said.
But alderman Nathan Henderson said the city is not keeping discussions private to intentionally exclude the public. The proposed dome would be in his ward near the intersection of Formosa Road and Collinsville Road in the southwest part of the city.
“I don’t know that it’s intentionally being kept under wraps,” Henderson said. “Not every project that’s proposed gets completed. We’re waiting to see if this is something that will go forward.”
When asked what residents in Ward 4 think of the project, Henderson said his constituents don’t know much about it because discussions have happened behind closed doors.
Henderson said the meetings have been kept private because “we don’t have anything set in stone.”
When asked if spending $40,000 means the city is serious about the project, Henderson said he voted in favor of spending the money and still supports it, but he declined to share additional information about his opinion on the project.
The mayor recognized $40,000 is “an investment” for the city, adding, “I do think that it’s been taken seriously.”
The mayor said discussions have revolved around the feasibility of the project, including how the city would pay for it.
The city paid for the preliminary engineering services with money from the Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district fund. Money in the fund comes from increased property values in the district, which the city created in 1997.
In a TIF district, the city sets a baseline property value from when the district is created. Any property taxes collected above that baseline value go into the TIF district fund. The money in TIF funds is intended for use on projects that improve economic development conditions in the area.
At the end of fiscal 2017, the fund had a balance of $1.9 million, according to Illinois Comptroller records.
Additional expenses could be covered by a hotel-motel tax and operational revenues, potentially from tenants or people who use the facility, according to Adomite. Property tax revenue in the general fund would not be used, the mayor said.
The city already collects a hotel-motel tax, which earned $188,643 during the fiscal year ending in April 2017, according to an audit from that year.
Though the mayor said he could not provide detailed information, he shared with the BND the agreement between Arizon, the company that would build the dome, and the city.
The dome could be built just north of an Illinois Department of Transportation facility at the intersection of Formosa and Collinsville roads, according to the proposal, putting it close to Interstate 55/70. The city has not yet purchased any land there, Adomite said.
David Nonn, president of the Tri-Township Park District, which includes Troy, said he only heard about the project through passing conversation and wasn’t sure if it would go forward. The district is a separate entity from the city.
Building the dome at the Tri-Township Park was an option the city floated, Nonn said.
“I kind of thought that that was not going to happen,” Nonn said, adding that it had been months since he heard about it.
If the project does move forward, the mayor said the public will have the opportunity to share their input.
“We’ll have more to talk about when we reach a point to move forward with some decision about it,” Adomite said.
To keep the dome inflated, an inflation fan runs around-the-clock, while a heating or cooling system runs 25 percent of the time, according to Arizon’s website. The system comes with an automatic backup generator that kicks in if the inflation fan goes out.
Electric costs can reach upward of $4,000 annually for domes, according to the company’s website.
Site preparation services, such as concrete, electrical or plumbing, for the dome are not included in the project agreement.
Arizon’s corporate headquarters is in Maryland Heights, Mo., but its dome manufacturing plant is in Granite City, according to the company’s website.
Arizon has built domes around the country, with clients including professional sports teams, universities and municipalities.