Crystal Lake Park Board Votes to Pay $6.3 Million for Viking Dodge

Big doings at the park board Thursday night.

Lincoln’s Birthday, McHenry County Blog reported Viking Dodge was topping the rumor mill for a location for a Crystal Lake Park District Community Center and Sports Complex.

“It’s more than a community center,” Park Board President Mike Zellman stressed.

Well, we didn’t call it that big name two weeks ago, but Thursday’s press release does.

And the potential price–$6.2 million–reported a few days later was virtually spot on.

The number in the contract is $6.29 million.

What would the park district get for that money?

A fairly new 44,000 square foot building on 26.9 acres.

18 acres out back are vacant, zoned agricultural, but already in the Crystal Lake city limits.

It could be used for “additional ball fields, courts and open space,” the district’s press release explained.

Is it a good deal?

In comparison to the vacant property which is a little smaller on the Southwest corner of Routes 14 and 176, it is.

Several decades ago talked about as a site for a Holidome, that vacant site is a bit smaller, but about the same price. And the water table cannot be far beneath its surface.

Financing will come from non-referendum “Alternative Revenue Bonds.”

While the press release says,

“The Park District will not be increasing taxes to acquire the property or to adapt the building for the anticipated uses in Phase 1,”

I suspect what is meant is that the tax rate will not go up. Certainly, if the money were not borrowed, the tax rate would decrease because fewer tax dollars would be required.

The board plans to pay for renovation through the sale of property, for example, the current Downtown administration building and parking lot to the east between the Dean law office and the health food store would be on the block.

The sale of other properties is also a possibility. One being considered is over 3 acres. It would require referendum approval because of its size.

And, the $3 million the city council promised for a senior center is a possibility, too.

City officials “have been outstanding from the beginning,” park district Director Kirk Reimer said.

“We’ve talked to the mayor (Aaron Shepley). He knows about it.

Last week city traffic consultant Gary Overbay and City Engineer Victor Ramirez spoke behind closed doors with the park board a week ago.

Overbay “presented us with a number of great options,” park board President Mike Zellman said.

Among them was apparently access to Route 14 through the old outdoor antique farm across from Flowerwood or the empty property north of it nearing The Breakers restaurant (from which it is very hard to exit, if one wants to return to Crystal Lake).

The pending reconfiguration of the Route 14-Route 176 intersection also provides some possibilities for innovative design.

Now, getting into and out of the Viking Dodge location would be a problem with the two state highways the way they exist now.

The district has 120 days, even 150 days to perform due diligence on the property.

Consultants will look at environmental, engineering, watershed, traffic, site design and water table aspects, among others.

Reimer said the depth of the water table is most important. If it were only three feet below the surface, I gathered that would be a deal breaker.

If everything works out, the district is looking at taking ownership in the middle of this summer. Remodeling will then commence.

The immediate uses would be for a Senior Center, Administrative Offices and Recreational Program Spaces, along with Equipment Maintenance Areas.

“This property gives us a lot of options,” Zellman said. “Our ultimate goal is a sports complex and pool.”

Six of the thirteen vehicle repair lifts will be left when Viking vacates the property. Some will be used to repair park district trucks and cars, while the unneeded ones will be sold off.

The thought arises that it is close enough to McHenry County College that auto mechanics students might make use of it in down time.

And the ultimate goal, a Crystal Lake Park District Community Center and Sports Complex?

It would have to go to the voters for the $30, $40, $50 million that would be needed.

Part of that cost might defrayed by allowing commercial properties near Route 176 where part of the parking lot is now.

Voting in favor of the proposal were Eric Anderson, Angel Collins, Richard Sexton, Jerry Sullivan, Mike Walkup and Mike Zellman.

Candy Reedy did not attend the meeting.

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Mayor Aaron Shepley is seen telling Crystal Lake seniors that he favors combining a senior center with a park district community center.

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