MARION -- Three months after the announcement that the Southern Illinois Miners had played their last game in Marion, Rodney Cabaness of Marion Center Project LLC, a business group that also owns the Oasis, the former Illinois Star Centre Mall, as well as Kokopelli Golf Club and Black Diamond Harley Davidson in Marion, told the Marion City Council his group would be taking over operation of Rent One Park with the aim of making the stadium "a cornerstone of sports tourism" in the area.
"This baseball stadium is an amazing jewel to us," Cabaness told the Council during the regular meeting on Monday night. "It is truly something we need to cherish."
With "sports tourism" in mind, Cabaness spoke of plans to attract various outdoor youth sports to Rent One, as well as indoor sports, hosted at The Pavilion, which would be transformed as well.
"We haven't figured it out completely, but we will come back to the city," he said.
Cabaness introduced Gary Smallshaw of Sports Facilities Advisory, which his group has partnered with.
"We essentially live and breathe the sports tourism space," Smallshaw said
He told the Council that sports tourism is a $45 billion industry, with youth sports comprising about $20 billion of that, a figure he says is about $5 billion more than the National Football League.
"People will be traveling from well outside of town to your destination," Smallshaw said. "They are a premium demographic. These are affluent families spending $1,500 to $2,000 a weekend."
Black Diamond co-owner Shad ZImbro confirmed that the contract to purchase the stadium that will hold 7,000 is still being negotiated.
"There are several details that still need to be worked out," he said, following a meeting at Kokopelli where the local Calcio Hawks Soccer Club announced it will join forces with the International Rush club.
Zimbro said his group is looking to build around six soccer fields, but stressed that plans are still underway and nothing has been decided.
In a news release announcing the sale of Rent One Park, the group said, "Our goal is to generate as much tourism as possible for Southern Illinois, utilizing Rent One Park as a mixed-used venue that will include baseball and be an anchor to additional sports assets being considered for our area."
The city council signed off on an agreement to extend the sales-tax incentive for Rent One from 2037 to 2042. "The current incentive also ties the city to the debt service, and the city will negotiate with other applications of the incentive, including the maintenance to the ballpark, the parking lot and operations costs," said Doug Patton, mayor pro tem.
The council, with Patton and commissioners John M. Barwick Jr., Jim Webb and John Stoecklin, approved the agreement in a 4-0 vote.
Mayor Mike Absher was absent.
The sale of the stadium could become final as soon as January 2022.