BOURBONNAIS — It might be fair to call the Bourbonnais Township Park District’s Diamond Point baseball complex a “diamond in the rough.”
And to stress that, the district’s administration has two points to share regarding the complex.
First, the baseball complex is not closing.
Secondly, the complex needs financial help — perhaps upwards of $1 million — to transform it to what it can and, more importantly, should be.
Three park district officials put to rest in an interview this past week the rumor of the complex closing.
Executive Director Ed Piatt, Board President David Zinanni and interim treasurer Rob Romo discussed the district’s future plans for the facility it has owned since 2010.
Here are some key points regarding the complex.
• Diamond Point Park has six baseball fields.
• The park has a splash pad, playground and pond.
• The park district purchased the 60-acre facility with $2.8 million in municipal bonds.
“We’ve heard a lot of rumors,” Piatt said. “We are not closing it down. We have never said that we were closing. We need to fix this. We get it.”
Piatt said the facility generates $6 million annually in revenue for Kankakee County.
“This is an economic generator for Kankakee County and the local villages,” Romo said. “It’s good for the region.”
However, it hasn’t been financially good for the park, both Romo and Piatt said.
Having examined the financial documents for Diamond Point, Romo said it has cost the district and its taxpayers more than $7 million since its purchase in 2010.
Among that $7 million, the facility has lost the park district $250,000 annually for maintaining the facility and paying the utilities.
Ballpark Sports Baseball’s Team Exposure of Bourbonnais run by Herb Forkenbrock, leases the six-field complex from the district, The current three-year contract is set to expire in August. The district receives $40,000 annually, plus a fee for the number of games played during each tournament.
In the past three years, 20 percent of games were canceled due to rainouts.
The infields of each of the six baseball diamonds are dirt.
“When you mix water with dirt you get mud,” Romo said. That is a bad combination when trying to schedule and play baseball.
In order to eliminate that problem and cut financial losses, Romo said the park district is proposing to replace the dirt with artificial turf.
The estimated cost to do that is $1 million, he said.
PARTNERSHIPS AND $1M NEEDED
To help fund this, Piatt, Romo and Zinanni will propose to officials with Kankakee County, Kankakee County Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the villages of Bradley and Bourbonnais they help finance the turf and installation.
Romo said they propose the KCCVB chip in $500,000, the county $250,000 and $125,000 from each Bradley and Bourbonnais.
Requests to the governmental bodies will be made in the coming days. The hope is to have commitments from them within 60 days.
Romo said if this schedule is followed, perhaps five of the six diamonds could have the new infield turf by the start of the 2023 baseball season. He said games typically begin at Diamond Point in mid April.
Romo noted hotel operators have noted lodging from Diamond Point participants is the region’s top attraction regarding hotel stays.
KCCVB has $1.4 million in reserves, Romo said. It benefits from hotel tax revenues, many of those stays coming from families attending games and tournaments hosted at Diamond Point.
As for the county, Bradley and Bourbonnais, Romo said the park district will request American Rescue Plan Act [ARPA] federal funds
The three government agencies benefit from sales tax generated by the people staying in the county for tourneys.
“We want to cooperatively work together,” Romo said. “We are not asking for an annual amount of money. The turf brings our costs down.”
IT’S ABOUT THE PEOPLE
Bringing costs down, and breaking even at Diamond Point Park will allow the park board and park district to address the facilities most used by residents.
“We cannot ask taxpayers for another dime,” Zinanni said. “Our residents don’t use this facility.”
A recently completed master plan for the district to follow going forward found park district residents want more programs, more options at each of the district’s other facilities: Perry Farm, Willowhaven Park and Nature Center, Exploration Station and the Recreation Station.
At its May meeting, the board approved replacing the roofs of several Perry Farm buildings and the Recreation Station.
“We’re concerned about Perry Farm. It is 10 to 15 years behind maintenance,” Zinanni said. “Other facilities are in poor condition.
“We want to do what the people want. We want to be transparent. We want to give the residents the best value of their park district.”
Romo added the residents are the top priority.
“Our No. 1 goal is serving residents of the park district,” he said. “How can we justify losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a year? We’re not trying to make money. We just don’t want to bleed money.”
Zinanni said the board hired Piatt and Romo to do just that.
“We brought these guys in because they can do the job, We truly believe,” Zinanni said.
That is how Piatt sees the mission.
“Let’s fix the problems we can fix,” he said. “I look through the lens and every decision I make here is best for the park district and its residents. If it’s not, we are not going to do it.
“Second, use the resources for the parks, especially Perry Farm. We get a lot of out of town guests.
“We are focusing on the district’s statement: ‘We make a difference and we pursue excellence in everything we do.”