JOLIET – The city wants to put artificial turf in Slammers’ stadium before the end of the year.
The project, which includes some reconfiguration of the city-owned stadium to make the field available for soccer and other sports as well as baseball, is estimated to cost between $1.2 million and $1.6 million.
Staff is reviewing engineering proposals for the job, which are likely to go to the city council for a vote May 16, City Manager Jim Hock said.
The plan is to install the turf after baseball season, and have the entire project done before winter, he said.
The city plans to use money generated by a recently expanded business tax to pay for it, although not all at once.
“The city will pay the up-front cost and have the special service area reimburse the city over 11 or 12 years in a way that won’t bankrupt them,” Hock said.
Joliet in December approved an expansion of the special service area property tax on downtown businesses to include businesses along Cass, Collins and South Chicago streets.
The expansion of the tax is expected to add $230,000 starting this year to the annual $400,000 the tax has generated in the past.
City officials have said they wanted to use the money for the stadium and economic development along the added business corridors. At one time, they said business owners in the new corridors would be consulted on how the money will be spent, but that has not happened yet.
Hock in March laid out his plan to use a portion of the tax over time to fund the stadium improvements.
“There will still be money left for things that will happen in the downtown area and the special service area,” he said.
Representatives from the City Center Partnership, which has overseen the use of the SSA tax in the past, could not be reached Thursday for comments on the city’s plan for the money.
Hock said improvements at the stadium will benefit the surrounding areas.
“The city truly believes the artificial turf will create economic development opportunity for the downtown and surrounding area because of the additional events that will be held there,” he said.
Slammers President Nick Semaca is scheduled to make a presentation to the city council at its workshop meeting May 15 regarding the advantages of artificial turf.
Semaca said the stadium could host more travel tournaments and community events. The stadium now has natural grass, which has to be protected from overuse. The redesign of a section of the stadium also would make room for more types of sports, including soccer.
“The plan is to configure the stadium to play just about anything,” Semaca said.