31.7.07

STICK TO THE MISSION. Richard Vedder at College Affordability notes a disturbing development.
McHenry County College (MCC) serves moderately affluent Chicago suburbs. It announced that it wanted to borrow $26 million to build a minor league quality baseball stadium -- seemingly on speculation. The goal is to lure a Frontier League team to play in the stadium. No team has committed to go there if the facility is built. To be sure, the stadium is ostensibly part of a larger physical fitness center, but the MCC officials are not providing details on the project (so much for transparency in the Chicago suburbs).
The Northwest Herald has more.

Under the pact, the baseball group agrees to pay at least $250,000 in annual licensing fees to the college for use of a 30-acre parcel including the stadium, parking lots and picnic areas planned for land north of the Route 14 campus.

The college also will collect 10 percent of gross revenue from ticket sales, suites, advertising and broadcasting, and other revenue sources, according to the agreement.

The pact will jump-start the college’s plan to build its $26 million health, wellness and athletic complex, which includes the 6,500-seat stadium, a fitness center and classrooms.“We see this as a creative approach to getting a much-needed facility built,” College President Walter J. Packard said. “It allows us to do it in a manner that doesn’t involve going to the taxpayers.”

College officials expect that revenue from the team will cover two-thirds of the debt to build the complex. The remaining debt will be paid through renting out the fitness center, which includes indoor basketball and volleyball courts, to traveling sports teams, Packard said.

Such creative financing might be a necessary evil in Illinois, where Governor Blagojevich, while not explicitly identifying spending on higher education as a regressive transfer, has been in a standoff with his legislature (Democrats gridlocking Democrats, forsooth!) over where to obtain the money for his state-supported health insurance plans. But luxury suites and exercise rooms? Sure, some community colleges, particularly in sunnier climes, do player development for NCAA baseball. But McHenry, one of Northern Illinois's feeder colleges?

Perhaps the transparency is missing because something more ambitious is afoot. There is a clapped-out ballfield, really suitable only for day games, not far away.

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