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Rockford Park District board gives blessing to Hard Rock Casino plan

Staff Report

ROCKFORD – The Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners, on Tuesday, approved a resolution of support for the proposed Hard Rock Casino in Rockford.

In 2011, 2015, 2018, and earlier this year, the Rockford Park District Board of Commissioners also passed resolutions that were presented with letters of support to bring a casino to Rockford. Officials say a casino will bring many benefits to the local area through economic development, increased tourism, and significant job creation.

The Rockford Park District will not receive a share of any casino revenue or other funding other than property taxes if the facility is built on the site of the former Clock Tower Resort.

Currently, the district is mainly funded through property taxes and fee revenue, but leaders say both of these revenue streams have declined over the last 10 years. Even with slight increases in equalized assessed value (EAV) since 2015, RPD is still down more than $625 million through local EAV since 2009.

This decline has caused $9.4 million in the district’s budget reductions, and reduced the number of youth programs offered. The district’s full-time workforce has also declined by 11% since 2009. For five years in a row, the Rockford Park District has elected not to increase tax dollars, resulting in saving taxpayers more than $2 million. During that time, it has also operated under the same tax revenue, even though the cost to do business continued to increase.

In addition to the resolution of support, the district has also been named a philanthropy partner for Hard Rock Casino Rockford because of the district’s commitment to improve the quality of life for all citizens and to unite our diverse community through the power of play and music.

Feedback received from community engagement conducted in 2018 directed the district to aggressively seek new alternative, non-property tax revenue sources, and focus on areas of greatest community benefit.

“We are facing historic financial challenges, including a $1.2 million deficit heading into 2020,” Rockford Park District Executive Director Jay Sandine said. “A partnership with Hard Rock Casino Rockford could help minimize future service reductions, and over time, provide financial resources to support areas that citizens deemed top priorities, such as neighborhood park and youth programs, along with arts and cultural programming.”

Hard Rock Casino has committed to help fund the amphitheater at Levings Park, neighborhood youth programs, expansion of Washington Park Community Center to incorporate a music production studio, and performance opportunities and potential venue improvements at Sinnissippi Music Shell.

The partnership is contingent upon the Hard Rock Casino Rockford project approval of the Hard Rock project by the the City of Rockford and the Illinois Gaming Board.

Rockford Park District Board President Ian Linnabary, an attorney with Reno & Zahm, represents the group of investors proposing the Hard Rock project. 


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