Funds for center discussed

By Tammy Sholer

A possibility exists that DeKalb County will receive state funds to build a civic center after discussing the prospect of such a building since the 1970’s.

Sen. Patrick Welch, D-Peru, introduced an appropriations bill to the Illinois Senate calling for about $10.5 million in state funds to build a civic center.

Welch could not be reached for comment because the senate was in session.

The bill passed the Illinois Senate and still must be passed by the Illinois House of Representatives and be signed by Gov. James Thompson before the bill will be enacted.

owever, William Lenschow, chairman for the DeKalb County Exposition Authority Board, said he cannot talk about the board’s plans concerning the center because the board has not formally discussed the prospect of funding a center.

He said he believes Welch introduced the bill because “the opportunity was there for a piece of legislation.”

Members of the board have been discussing the construction of a civic center in DeKalb for about 15 years, Lenschow said. The center was never built for several reasons, including lack of funds, he said.

Ken Beasley, assistant to President John LaTourette, said, “The state provides matching funds, called fairs and expositions, for civic areas.” The state provides funds for a center, and a city must match the funds to support the building, Beasley said.

In the past, DeKalb County has not been able to match state funds to build the center, Lenschow said.

Lenschow said the board will review and discuss the prospect of DeKalb county acquiring a center in the future. He said if Welch’s legislation is approved, the board would have to investigate the county’s resources available to fund the center.

Beasley said NIU is interested in building a center because the university would be able to utilize the facility. However, he said he did “not know the nature of the building” or NIU’s role in the development or utilization of the building at this time.

He said it is too soon to predict the future of the Chick Evans Field House, where several NIU sporting events are held, until futher progress is made with the center.

Several civic areas include Chicago’s McCormick Center and Rockford’s Metro Center, Beasley said. The centers are used for a variety of events from basketball and wrestling games to flea markets and antique shows, he said.