Mike Watson

Mike Watson

BRADLEY — Bradley Mayor Mike Watson has long believed the village has not gotten the bang for its buck when it comes to tourism, leisure and convention business.

He has been at odds with the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau nearly since the day he was seated as a village trustee.

He and the village board are now out to set the village’s own course when it comes to capturing leisure time development and spending as the board on Monday hired Conventions Sports & Leisure International LLC, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based company to help set its course.

The board approved the $90,000 contract with CSL by a 4-0 vote and the first phase of CSL’s mission will be to complete a market demand and opportunities analysis by December or January.

CSL Behring, of course, is also a very well known pharmaceutical manufacturer in Bourbonnais Township. They are, however, two entirely different companies.

The goal of the agreement is to have CSL help create a road map of sorts in which Bradley — the home of the majority of Kankakee County’s hotel and motels — can bring in businesses and attraction to help Bradley capture significantly more revenues from leisure spending.

The village only recently passed a special 1-percentage-point increase in its sales tax rate into the newly created Kinzie Avenue/Route 50 and West Broadway Corridor Redevelopment Framework plan.

The goal over the course of the business district 23-year special taxing life is to reinvigorate the district with the help of the additional 1-percentage-point increase in the sales tax rate.

The money generated through this tax will be reinvested into the business district.

Even though the region has a convention and tourism organization, Watson and other village officials do not believe Bradley gains much for the amount of money the village, through the hotel/motel tax which goes to the CVB, generates for the organization.

Bradley tried to exit the current five-year agreement it has with the CVB, but could not.

Regarding the CSL agreement, Watson said after the village board meeting the goal is for CSL to help create a road map for “Bradley’s greatest chance for success.”

He said he believes the agreement will be just another indication to potential new businesses or even existing businesses of how serious and dedicated Bradley is to growing and becoming an even greater force for business.

“This is a good investment and we expect it to pay dividends down the road,” Watson said.

Trustee Gene Jordan said the CSL study will also be used as a marketing tool for developers and can also be used to help gain state grants.

Within Phase 1, the study will evaluate the market opportunity for a variety of potential new tourism facility assets and identify and define up to several scenarios of facility investment that would be “market supportable” in Bradley.

CSL will then identify three tourism facility concepts for future analysis.

In Phase 2, these targeted facility opportunities will be further analyzed to generate detailed projections regarding use, attendance, construction costs, operating revenues/expenses, hotel room nights, economic impact and return on investment to Bradley.

CSL will also make recommendations regarding which areas are best suited for this as well as what type of owner and operator model would function best.

This is just the latest step the Watson administration has taken in terms of growing Bradley through tourism and convention. Bradley took bold steps in recent months by purchasing the vacant former Carson’s men’s store and the JCPenney store in the Northfield Square mall.

Lee Provost, an award-winning reporter, has been writing local news stories for The Daily Journal since 1988. He is a lifelong resident of the region. Provost can be reached at lprovost@daily-journal.com.