Mayor would love ’Hawks downtown

There already is an entertainment-sports district in downtown Rockford, according to Mayor Doug Scott. Mention of one is nothing new.

Scott was asked in an e-mail to comment for a Rock River Times story Feb. 18 about the Rockford RiverHawks and possibly the Rockford IceHogs leaving Rockford for Loves Park. He responded to the request, but his comments were received after deadline for the story. They are being published now in fairness.

Scott said the MetroCentre, Coronado Theatre, New American Theater, Davis Park and the museums make up the downtown entertainment-sports district.

“We’d like to do more, as is shown from the Johnson Study, which calls for improvements to the MetroCentre and an amphitheater for Davis Park,” said Scott. “There are also improvements planned for the museum park.”

Regarding comments from David A. Ciarrachi, managing partner of the Rockford RiverHawks, about a possible downtown stadium and the RiverHawks Columbus Day deadline for their move to Loves Park, Scott said:

“We did show a lot of sites to the RiverHawks, but they didn’t really like any, except for one. And because of their time line, we wouldn’t have been able to secure the site in time, as it involved some fairly substantial demolition as well as other issues.

“We would have loved to have the RiverHawks build downtown, and still would, if their Loves Park arrangement does not come through. That deal was very attractive to them, and the land being owned by one of the team owners certainly made it an easy option for them.”

The team co-owner to whom Scott referred is local developer and RiverHawks investor Kurt Carlson, who will act as developer and general contractor for the stadium project. The stadium will be built off Riverside Boulevard just east of Interstate 39-90 and west of the Sportscore complex.

Construction of the 3,546-seat facility, with a full capacity of more than 4,000 including berms and picnic areas, is expected to begin this spring with completion in time for the opening game of the RiverHawks’ 2005 season.

Future plans include construction of a hotel behind the left-field wall, allowing guests to view games from their rooms.

Regarding comments from Jeff Smith, one of the owners of the Rockford IceHogs, on an IceHog idea for a possible new ice rink at the vacant Reed-Chatwood industrial site south of downtown, Scott said:

“It didn’t make sense for us to put up land to build an arena eight blocks from the MetroCentre that would directly compete with the MetroCentre. It still doesn’t. What makes sense for us is to partner with the IceHogs to make improvements to the MetroCentre, as shown in the Johnson Study, that will help the building and enable new revenue streams to help the team. That’s the direction we are pursuing.”

Representatives of the IceHogs and MetroCentre officials still are discussing options that could keep the ‘Hogs at the downtown arena, meeting last week for the second time in as many weeks.

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