Community leaders held a news conference Friday to celebrate the beginning of construction of a long-anticipated $24 million downtown sports complex.
The former Ingersoll building, a shuttered Water Street factory on the Rock River, will be converted into multiple hard courts for basketball, volleyball, wrestling, cheerleading and other tournaments and activities.
Enhancing regional venues for athletics tournaments is seen as critical to upholding Rockford's reputation as a sports tourism destination. Visitors spend more than $16 million a year when in town for tournaments at Sportscore One in Rockford and Sportscore Two in Loves Park. That amount is expected to double within a few years after an expansion at Sportscore Two is complete and the 105,000-square-foot indoor facility — for now dubbed Sportscore Downtown — opens in spring 2016.
The capital improvements are made possible by state grants, hotel tax revenue and contributions from Winnebago County, Rockford, Cherry Valley, Machesney Park, Loves Park and the Rockford Park District.
The city is the lead agency in the design and construction of Sportscore Downtown. The Park District will operate the facility, and the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau will market the venue. It is already busy booking tournaments. The planned expansion at Sportscore Two and the Ingersoll factory retrofit will create 200 construction jobs and 225 permanent full-time jobs upon the opening of both venues.
"We're excited to see the vision of a vibrant downtown really come into focus," RACVB President John Groh said.