ROCKFORD – Snow Park at Alpine Hills will likely be shuttered for the 2019-20 season as the Rockford Park District deals with a looming budget deficit.
The announcement came Wednesday on the park’s Facebook page.
“Suspension of operations at Snow Park at Alpine Hills for the 2019-2020 season has been recommended by the Rockford Park District to help address the district’s $1.2 to $1.4 million budget deficit,” the post reads. “At this time, we do not anticipate opening for the 2019-2020 season but this decision will ultimately be made by our Board of Commissioners. Snow Park at Alpine Hills is a unique and one-of-a-kind recreational opportunity during the winter months.”
At his point officials say the district can’t afford to operate the facility without a substantial increase in revenue, decrease in footprint and a $50,000 subsidy.
The news follows last month’s announcement that Sinnissippi Golf Course, Alpine Pool and the snow park could close because of budget problems. A citizen group was able to rally to keep the golf course open for one year. There has been no word on the fate of Alpine Pool.
Meantime, Sand Park Pool, in Loves Park, is set to reopen in 2020 after being closed for two seasons.
“For over half of the City’s existence, Sand Park Pool has provided a recreational opportunity to our citizens,” Loves Park Mayor Greg Jury said. “The citizens of Loves Park have repeatedly expressed the importance of this facility as numerous citizens reached out to me, as well as other elected officials about what could be done to increase the chances of reopening the pool.”
Jury, with support from the Loves Park City Council, has been working with the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (RACVB) and other community partners to explore ways to utilize visitor spending to enhance support to Loves Park’s biggest tourist destination, Mercyhealth Sportscore Two and to help lessen the amount of property tax dollars the Rockford Park District utilizes to operate the facility.
Mercyhealth Sportscore Two is a product of the region’s Reclaiming First initiative, which provided funding for the expansion of the facility owned and operated by the Rockford Park District.
Every year, the City of Loves Park receives revenue from a hotel-motel tax paid for by visitors staying overnight. The tax is intended to support marketing and tourism related activities in the City of Loves Park.
“Loves Park is the proud home of Mercyhealth Sportscore Two, one of the premier sports facilities in the Midwest,” Jury added. “The majority of these guests are staying in our community and spending money on lodging, food, and gas thanks to a tournament or major event taking place at Mercyhealth Sportscore Two,”
The RACVB has agreed to redirect $80,000 of the city’s hotel-motel tax to support the Park District’s sports facilities that help generate tourism in the region.
“RACVB and the Rockford Park District have been partners for more than three decades and we want to continue to be a strong partner going forward,” RACVB President and CEO John Groh said. “These funds will support the marketing and operation of Mercyhealth Sportscore Two and promote the long-term success of the facility by securing additional tournaments and customers.”
The visitors bureau commitment will allow the park district to use $80,000 of the nearly $250,000 in property tax dollars currently being used to help operate Mercyhealth Sportscore Two to reopen the pool.
In 2017, nearly 13,500 guests utilized Sand Park Pool and approximately 200 individual youth participated in swim lessons. The park has been closed for for environmental remediation on adjacent property.