PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Peoria city leaders are applauding city council’s approval to loan $20 million in bonds to the Peoria Civic Center for much needed capital improvements, including a new roof, HVAC system and ice plant.
That’s on top of $25 million in state grants awarded by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to the Peoria Civic Center back in 2021.
The last time the Peoria Civic Center saw any improvements was back in 2008, said Peoria City Manager Patrick Urich.
“It is the heart of downtown, and it’s the heart of this region. And so it’s important that we continue to support the Civic Center,” he said.
“Things get old, they break, they look worn and it’s time for an upgrade of the facility,” added Peoria Mayor Rita Ali.
Ali said the Peoria Civic Center is a critical asset to the city and beyond.
“The Civic Center means everything to our community. It helps improve the quality of life for our residents, not just in the city, but also in Greater Peoria region, and wider than the region,” she said.
Following a bond review, Ali said the bond will likely be issued in May.
“These are general obligation bonds and we’ll try to get the best rate possible and at the at the right time. We’re not going to be careless in terms of the management and the oversight of this amount of funding,” she said.
The Peoria Civic Center is a not-for-profit entity that depends on public sources of cash to stay afloat. It’s $47 million in the hole, so between the state grant and city bond, most of it is now taken care of.
Peoria City Councilman John Kelly said he did not know how bad the money situation was until a few weeks ago, so extra oversight is warranted for the new influx of dollars.
“I was not aware that they were so far behind. And I was not aware that reserves were not set aside for these things. I feel we need to have a more secure setup for continuing capital investment in these buildings,” he said.
Kelly compared the Civic Center’s financial needs to that of a public park.
“It’s publicly supported, and people use it, and sometimes it does not necessarily generate all the money it needs to generate, but it’s still an asset that is essential to a city like ours,” he said.
Urich said the bond will be paid through existing hotel, restaurant, and amusement taxes, at no cost to taxpayers.
“There’s going to be no increase in the tax rates in order to cover the cost of this debt. It just kind of wraps around. We’ll pay interest only for the first six years and then after that, the principal will be paid down at roughly about $2,000,000 a year through 2042,” he explained.
The Peoria Civic Center Authority released a statement thanking Ali, Urich, and city council members.
“The Peoria Civic Center Authority is enthusiastic about the City of Peoria’s investment in the Peoria Civic Center campus. It improves our ability to welcome guests to experience quality arts and entertainment programming, sporting events, and conventions for generations to come.”