Rockford event center planning includes new capacity consideration

The proposed event center project was further discussed at the May 14 Rockford City Council meeting, and with a new component.

In April council and staff had an open house event for property owners and residents regarding an Event Center (with seating for 300) that included projected costs, tax liability for property owners and an artist’s rendition of the outside of the building. Attendees were able pose questions and offer suggestions.

At the council’s May 7 meeting, Councilor Rick Martinson relayed to the council that subsequent conversations with some area residents suggested that consideration of increasing the capacity size was something the council should take a look at. The plans are not finalized, and he thought this would be the time to have that conversation. Although the facility, in this most recent rendition, holds several times the number of people the existing Lions Building can, the 300-person capacity might limit the venue for some larger events. At one stage in the planning, being able to divide the venue for more than one event was discussed. The discussion of increased capacity resurrected this point.

Martinson told the council that neighboring Rockford Township has a hall that can accommodate up to 400. Martinson said that the company working on the project, CPMI, estimates it would cost an additional $275,000 to $324,000 to get the building’s capacity up to 400 with additional square footage of up to 2,000.

The council also wanted to firm up estimates on projected operational costs versus revenue for future discussion of the project. As it stands, the construction would be paid by bond, with repayment through property taxes until satisfied (the current projection is 15 years). Operational costs are expected to be covered to some extent by rental and other associated fees charged, but the council considers this an important component of the project and will discuss after reviewing projections.

For several years, Rockford councils have worked on an event center project. The scope has changed over time (one proposal included room for city hall), but the Riverside Park area of downtown Rockford has always been the destination. The city acquired adjacent property several years ago with this purpose in mind. The existing building the city rents out for events and meetings was built several decades ago by the Rockford Lions Club. Aside from its limiting capacity of approximately 70, it is considered to be in poor condition and not worth restoring.

In other news, the city’s public works supervisor, Dennis Peterson, reported that a sinkhole had been discovered at Cut Off Trail, and that attempts to keep it filled were unsuccessful. A culvert placement will correct the problem, and the council approved the work. Because of the hole’s proximity to the road, the repair was considered a priority and will be completed soon.

Also, recent complaints by residents over chickens and turkeys housed within the city prompted the council to direct staff to bring the domestic and non-domestic city ordinance to the council for review and discussion, and to contact neighboring cities to see if they have similar issues, and how they’ve been addressed.

And lastly, the city’s finance clerk, Mary Huettl will be retiring from her position with the city after 12 years.  The council recognized Huettl for her service, performance and dedication.

The next regular meeting of the Rockford City Council is Tuesday, May 28, at 7 p.m. at the Rockford City Hall, 6031 Main St.