Council debates funding of new Slammers scoreboard

Karen Sorensen | 3/2/2015, 9:54 p.m.
Joliet is contractually obligated to provide a working scoreboard, and will have no choice but to purchase one if it ...
A scoreboard for the Joliet Slammers at Silver Cross Stadium will cost the city of Joliet $360,000.

The cost of a new video scoreboard for Silver Cross Field is more than twice the amount budgeted for this year, and some Joliet City Council members are worried the city cannot afford the $360,000 price tag.

The problem is, they may not have a choice in the matter.

If they don’t make the commitment at Tuesday night’s council meeting, it may be too late to order its construction in time for the May 19 start of the Joliet Slammers season, Slammers CEO Josh Schaub told the council Monday.

If they hold off on buying it and it breaks down, the city will not only have to buy one immediately per their contract with the team, the Slammers stand to lose thousands in scoreboard advertising money and contracts for other events, such as concerts, that use the electronic board as part of the entertainment.

“The existing video board is on its last legs,” City Manager Jim Hock said of the board, which was built when the stadium opened in 2002 and operates on a Windows 95 platform.

“It’s been extended a couple of years beyond its traditional life. We do have a contractual agreement with the Slammers that the city will replace the scoreboard and the expectation was that this year it would happen.”

Schaub added, “The expectation really is the scenario when we get to the spring and it won’t turn on. That’s a very likely scenario from what we know from the past and the repairs we’ve put in. The parts to repair this video board are extremely difficult to locate because they’re not manufactured anymore.”

The price for the replacement scoreboard came in nearly $60,000 more than anticipated, Hock said. The original plan had been to split cost over two budget years, but the company building it wants the bill paid in full, meaning the city would need to dip into reserves to cover the expense or take a short-term loan at about 1.75 percent interest.

Hock said the proposed board is “not extravagant.” It will be 877 square feet, which is far smaller than the 1,200- to 1,500-square-foot boards that have been built for the Schaumburg Flyers, the Windy City ThunderBolts in Crestwood and other area minor league baseball stadiums. The current scoreboard is just 375 square feet.

The problem, Councilman Jim McFarland said, is this is shaping up to be a very expensive year.

The city will need to start making payments to purchase the Evergreen Terrace apartment complex, could lose more casino income if the state approves additional south suburban gambling and is facing the potential loss of 50 percent of its tax revenue from the state under a budget cut proposal made by new Gov. Bruce Rauner. For Joliet, that adds up to nearly $7 million.

“I guess what I’m asking the council, is this a priority at this time?” McFarland asked.

Councilman Bob O’Dekirk suggested the council “hold off on this until we find out whether or not Gov. Rauner’s proposal’s actually going to happen.”