MCC President Walt Packard Sings Death Knell for Baseball Stadium

For the second meeting in less than a month, I left the room whistling,

“Ding, dong the witch is dead. Which old witch? The wicked witch…”

And, this time I even came up with appropriate words before I got home from the McHenry County College Board meeting.

“Ding, dong the pitch is dead.

Which old pitch?

Pete Heitman’s pitch.”

The reason that minor league baseball promoter Pete Heitman’s pitch was dead?

After an embarrassingly inadequate 3rd party analysis by Dave Stone of Economics Research Associates of Heitman’s and his buddy Mark Houser’s projected figures and probing questions by MCC Trustee Donna Kurtz, MCC President Walt Packard read the following statement:

“The presentation we just heard makes a case that this project was put forward on a sound basis. It suggests that if the Board choose to move forward with just the Health Wellness and Athletic building it has potential for supporting itself.

“That being said, I am recommending that we not move forward with this project in its current form.

“Furthermore, I would propose that we take formal action to sunset this specific project at our April Board meeting.

“The Board should be proud of the fact that it has successful(ly) taken action that will allow us to purchase the Gilger property. It should not be lost on any one that this is a major step for our college. And the Board should be applauded for having made an historic, forward thinking sound business decision.

“The Board also took our Facilities Master Plan and made a valiant attempt at implementing a portion of it in a manner that we believed might very well have allowed us to add much needed facilities to our campus without going to the tax payers as the source for funding.

“For a variety of reasons, this does not appear to be a time when we can bring that plan to fruition.

“Therefore, I am recommending that we

  • terminate the combined HWAC stadium project;
  • take a fresh look at our Facilities plan and
  • aggressively commit ourselves to identifying a sound fiscal approach for making needed facilities become a reality.”

The statement was evidently put together at the last minute. President Packard was kind enough to provide copies after the meeting. I tried to correct the typographic errors.

It was evident long ago, of course, that the Frontier League baseball stadium proposal was melting, just like the wicked witch.

The unanimous rejection of MCC’s re-zoning proposal by the Crystal Lake Planning and Zoning Commission during our supremely wet summer gave a clue.

So did the public defection of two articulate board members—Donna Kurtz and Scott Summers–at the Crystal Lake City Council meeting.

And the subsequent rejection by the Crystal Lake’s City Council of Mayor Aaron Shepley strongly stated support.

Plus, the public reaction of the MCC Board majority’s 4-3 censure of the two trustees who announced their change of opinion at the re-zoning meeting.

Then, Geraldine Cowlin made known that she thought the junior college had gone so far off target by involving itself in minor league baseball that she withdrew a $1 million pledge of scholarship money.

After the statement, several trustees made comments.

“For a number of months,” Summers said, “I have had misgivings and anxieties about this project. I will spare the public (my reasons, considering President Packard’s announcement). Candidly, (I remember) with bitterness six months ago (when) two trustees were censured for taking a position not dissimilar from the recommendation (by our own) president.”

“I take umbrage with Mr. Summers (remarks),” MCC Board President George Lowe interjected. “You had an opportunity to vote on this and you did. Then, you changed your opinion at the last minute.”

Committee of the Whole Chairwoman Frances Glosson said that the lesson to be learned was to get community input first.

“Thank you for all of your passions,” she said to those in the audience who had taken part in the debate.

“I think we need to prove ourselves to the public when it comes to the HWAC,” Kurtz added. “To try to get it done without community input (won’t work),”

“I’m glad you’re coming to this late to the table,” Lowe said with a raised voice.

“I want respectful comments,” Glosson chided Lowe.

“Do you want me to leave?” Lowe replied. “I’m fed up!”

The next item on the board agency was “non-violent communication,” which Glosson thought was appropriate.

I stood up, turned around and shook Rosemary Kurtz’ hand. Then, I went out to talk to the Harvard baseball team promoter, whose stadium will be privately financed.

The pitch had melted.

Oh, yes.

The other meeting where I left whistling, “Ding dong the witch is dead,” was the McHenry County Republican Central Committee convention. The analogy was not as good a fit as last night, but I assure you it wasn’t completely irrelevant.

= = = = =
On top, the man taking a picture of me taking a picture of him is baseball promoter Pete Heitman. Next comes Economics Research Associates analyst Dave Stone explaining how ERA agrees with Heitman’s projections. Dr. Walt Packard is the man with his left arm outstretched. Under his picture are EquityOne’s Mark Houser, Pete Heitman and Frontier League Commissioner Bill Lee being led from Packard’s office last spring to a secret meeting. The three Crystal Lake City Councilmen who put the kabosh on the McHenry County College’s appear next. From left to right, they are Ralph Dawson, Brett Hopkins and Jeff Thorsen. Below, in descending order, are MCC Trustees Scott Summers, George Lowe and Donna Kurtz.

And, who should show up after the meeting but my father.

True he was only on a plaque, but the new Board Secretary found his picture in a drawer and brought it out for me to see. He was elected to the original MCC Board and served from 1967-70.


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