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Batting 300 Million
Reposted from Chicago Weekly
Alderman Cochran steps up to the plate for the Chicago Sports Village
They say it takes a village to raise a child. But
what does the child say about the village? What if the village happens
to be a testosterone-fueled 300 million dollar megalopolis of athletics
conceived by a boisterous alderman and located in one of Chicago’s
roughest neighborhoods? What then? The real answer may come in a few
years, when the Chicago Sports Village opens its doors (and its courts)
on the city’s South Side.
Twentieth Ward Alderman Willie Cochran is spearheading the project.
His ward is a gerrymandered oddity mostly covering Woodlawn, Washington
Park, and Englewood, with a segment snaking up to Back-of-the-Yards.
Cochran hemorrhages enthusiasm about the Village and its destined
effects on the area. He sees the project as a “game-changer for the
South Side and Chicago…an opportunity to give pride back to the
To develop the project, Cochran has teamed up with Paul McDermott of
Creative Transformations Group, a Chicago-based development firm devoted
to “extraordinary projects.” Although McDermott has extensive
experience with Chicago-area sports development, CTG has only been on
the scene since 2010. As of yet, none of its projects have come to
According to CTG’s plans, the base of the facility will be a large
indoor track, complete with seating for 5,000 spectators. The rest of
the features read like a juicehead Christmas list granted by Santa on
steroids. The Village will have something of an international
flair—three multipurpose fields serving football (presumably configured
to American, Australian, and Canadian varieties), lacrosse, rugby, and
soccer. Two baseball and softball diamonds will be supplemented by
batting cages. Basketball and volleyball courts will be there too. Those
who love to fence, be martially artistic, and play ping pong will also
be provided with relevant facilities.
Water-wise, the Village will contain enough gallons to be considered
coastline. The aquatic sports center comes with a 50 meter competition
pool and two practice pools, as well as a rowing training center
featuring training tanks for virtual crew meets. Elsewhere, a 15,000
square foot golf training center will come replete with a 20 bay driving
range, simulators, a rooftop mini course, and a members-only club to
preserve the elitism that comes naturally with golf.
And how complete could any athletic body be without MASSIVE blood
flow to the EXTREMITIES? The plan calls for a 200,000 square foot indoor
BMX and skateboarding center fit to host ESPN’s X-games, as well as a
hockey and skating center with a competition rink and two practice rinks
for those whose skills are either underdeveloped or frosty.
Because the above apparently does not whet Cochran’s insatiable
appetite for sports, McDermott plans on festooning the complex with a
year-round outdoor ski and snowboarding slope, allowing users to slalom
down former slums for a nominal fee. Such a fee will probably be
necessary—McDermott estimates that construction alone will cost 50
Hormones aside, Cochran stressed that the project remains in the
conceptual stage. But McDermott sounded surer, saying that investors
have already been lined up, and that a plot of land has been chosen.
When asked about the parallel to Chicago’s failed Olympic bid, Cochran
stated that the project does come in the wake of the bid, and aims to
make use of the same qualities that made the area attractive to the
Olympic developers: “The project is connected in that Washington Park is
just as attractive with its transportation, community benefits, and
So will the facility be in Washington Park itself, like the Olympic
bid? Cochran answers with a resounding “no,” limiting the area to the
Washington Park and Englewood neighborhoods. McDermott reckons the size
at 80 acres, covering roughly eight city blocks of space. Oddly enough,
neither neighborhood has 80 acres of open space to use, meaning that at
least some occupied residences will have to be demolished to make way
for the Village. Cochran said that most of the land parcels will be
taken from empty lots and abandoned homes, turning symbols of urban
decay into a springboard for community rehabilitation.
The humble and unathletic observer might also hazard the question of
how all this will be paid for. Mr. McDermott, who speaks like the
audiobook version of Mitt Romney’s resume, downplayed the amount of
public funding involved, calling it “minor,” saying that the project
relies almost exclusively on private investment. However, McDermott and
Cochran appear slightly at odds on this point. Alderman Cochran, the
self-styled “originator” of the project, stated that it would draw on
“whatever funding necessary,” including public funding. He did stress
that the public aspect would be in the minority, and would consist
primarily of Tax Increment Funding (TIF).
When a private company plans a development project in a blighted
area, the city can cleave a TIF district for them out of the legislative
void. Development within the district receives subsidies from the
government, but only in the form of the projected rise in property taxes
due to the fiscal effects of the development. In this way, a
public-private partnership can go into action with funding from the
government’s predicted property revenue due to the development.
TIFs come under near perpetual criticism, however, for allowing
overuse of eminent domain laws and for distributing money to developers
while ignoring the increased strain placed on public infrastructure. For
example, increased property values may lead to higher population
density, which would require bigger schools and more police stations to
be built on the same budget as before. The 2016 Olympic bid relied
largely on TIFs, and came under heavy fiscal flak for that reason.
Although the Village will probably take the majority of its funding
from private investors (all of whom request anonymity), the specter of
public funding for this kind of project still looms. Tom Tresser, one of
the leaders in the campaign against Chicago’s Olympic bid, cautioned:
“Be VERY wary of so-called public-private partnerships that involve
public land and precious public funds. When I hear that term I usually
see some developer’s scheme that can’t be done in the regular
marketplace and is a cover for sucking at the public tit.”
To milk the problem further, such a development would also cause
property values to spike, which is, in fact, what TIFs rely on.
Gentrification in other areas has been met with opposition, and some
would certainly protest that the rich cultural history of Englewood and
Washington Park may be erased by an influx of new residents who could
push the old out. On top of all this, the facility will be for-profit.
And of course, with a 300 million dollar price tag, one can wonder if
there are more pressing monetary concerns in a ward with mostly failing
and overcrowded public schools.
In spite of such concerns, Cochran and McDermott envision the Village
and the area as a land of athletic milk and honey. Alderman Cochran
pointed out that the space is intended for the public, and as a result
will make use of public funding. To that end, elements of the facility
will be free. According to McDermott, the facility will be run by an
overarching non-profit group, meaning that the profits reaped will be
sown back into the pockets of investors, with the residual gleanings of
cash going to maintaining the facility. McDermott described the Village
as “Disneyland with free entry,” with only larger events and snazzier
facilities like the ski slope costing visitors.
Cochran is especially keen on improving Chicago Public Schools’
athletic facilities and intends for the facility to address this. “We
have schools making kids run in the hallways [for gym]…and no indoor
track facility.” Beyond this, the Village will offer education programs
for local kids and a number of sponsored scholarships for students, as
well as training facilities for umpires and coaches, and a sports
academy made especially for girls ages four to fourteen. As Cochran said
of his passion and promotion for the project, “I have athletics in my
DNA … the project comes from my past and my love of athletics.”
In order to build such a towering sports complex, presumably grown
from the alderman’s own genetic material, the project will need 1000
jobs for construction in order to meet its target completion date in
late 2014, as well as 800 staff members to run. Although it is unclear
how many staff positions will require highly specialized labor, both
Cochran and McDermott are excited about the economic benefits of the
Legitimate concerns do remain about the project, especially given the
optics of having a facility of such extravagance situated in one of the
city’s poorest areas. The question of funding also lingers, as well as
the perpetual debate over what constitutes development and what
constitutes gentrification. However, as Yogi Berra said, “If the world
were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” The Chicago Sports Village seems
extravagant to the max, and will most likely become something of a
behemoth on the South Side, assuming that currently tentative plans
score their way into reality. Will the South Side’s sports Village hit a
home run, or go down swinging?
On Wednesday, September 26, 2012, Alderman Willie
B. Cochran convened the first 20th Ward Education Task Force Meeting where a combination of over 30
Principals, Assistant Principals, Teachers, Family and Community Engagement
Managers, and one Network Chief of Schools gathered to discuss the educational
concerns and needs of our Ward.
The purpose of the Education Task Force is to
help create a positive learning environment and concentrate on providing a healthy,
safe, and supportive educational setting that addresses the needs of the
students of the 20th Ward. With a targeted mission to work
collaboratively to ensure that students of our ward have access to adequate
resources, an improved knowledge base, and safe school zones, the 20th
Ward Education Task Force is ready for action.
At our inaugural meeting four functions for the
Task Force were immediately identified for direct action. Those functions
include creating a School Safe Zone Ordinance to eliminate the use of “fire
arms” on school property; the opportunity to address gangs and violence
surrounding Chicago Public Schools with representatives from the Chicago Police
Department; identifying resources and creating opportunities to address the
social and emotional issues of our ward; and to addressing the possibility of
school closings by the Chicago Board of Education in the 20th Ward.
Prior to the close of the meeting, Alderman
Cochran adjusted the agenda for open discussion and items brought to the table
by the attendees included a very special thanks to Alderman Willie B. Cochran for
convening this group of educators who can gather to share their concerns and
vision for an improved 20th Ward; a special thanks to Principal
Cynthia Miller for serving as our host;, and kudos to the Alderman from
teachers who are excited about the chance to collaborate with other teachers
for shared “best practices,” resources, and much more.
Our next meeting will be held during the month of
November (TBD) at the Hamline Elementary School located at 4747 South Bishop, Chicago, Ill.
60609. For more
information please contact Phyllis P. Hayes, Education Coordinator, 20th
Ward, at email@example.com.
Seminar on October 13 Provided Wealth of
Resources and Information
Concerned Community Members
CHICAGO – Alderman Willie B. Cochran conducted a 20th
Ward Troubled Buildings Seminar on Saturday, October 13, 8:30 a.m. to 1:30
p.m., at Hyde Park
Academy, 6220 S. Stony Island Avenue.
am confident that working together we can significantly improve conditions in
areas where abandoned buildings, drug and gang houses, and other troubled
properties daily threaten the health and safety of our families,” said Alderman
“I am working closely with the
Chicago Police Department, Department of Buildings, Department of Law, the
Chicago Housing Authority, other city agencies, and organizations such as the
Community Investment Corporation (CIC) and the Metropolitan Tenants
Organization (MTO) to ensure that effective steps to address this problem are
identified and taken in the 20th Ward,” Cochran added. “All who attend this seminar will leave with
the knowledge a game plan to make our neighborhoods safer and stronger is in
seminar included special “Winning with Foreclosures” and “Exit Gracefully”
presentations by real estate professional, author and consultant Marki
Lemons-Ryhal. “We cannot stem the tide
of troubled buildings without stemming the flood of foreclosures in our
communities,” states Alderman Cochran, “and Marki Lemons-Rhyal is the outstanding
expert in this area. You will not want
to miss these sessions and others covering key concerns.”
Alderman Willie Cochran applauds the new Free Fare Card Pilot program for
students in five Chicago
public high schools. One of five participating schools is TEAM Englewood,
located in the 20th
Ward, which is another step the City is taking
to support Chicago’s
students and ensure they are able to get to school on time and take advantage
of the new full school day every day this year.
“Anything that helps our students get to school on time and ensure they are in
the classroom is a wonderful thing,” said Alderman Cochran. “Any 20th
Ward residents with students at TEAM
School should make sure to ask school
administration about this program.”
The free fare card pilot program will allow 500 CPS students to ride public
transportation for free. Currently, all CPS students are eligible to apply for
a Student Riding Permit, which provides them with reduced fares on CTA buses
and trains from 5:30AM to 8:30PM on schooldays.
Last week, the CTA and CPS partnered to extend reduced CTA fares for CPS
students by an additional 30 minutes each day for the full school day, ensuring
that students won’t need to choose between taking advantage of the reduced fare
and participating in after-school sports or clubs. And just this morning, CTA
announced its first multi-year sponsor for its “First Day, Free Rides” program,
which provides free CTA bus and train rides for CPS students to and from school
on the first day of school for the majority of students, this year September 4,
This pilot program grew out of an idea presented to the Mayor by the Mikva
Challenge Mayoral Youth Commission, a group of 25 Chicago high school and college students who
meet with the Mayor on a regular basis to present new ideas and provide the
Mayor with a youth-oriented perspective of the challenges facing the city. The
entire cost of the pilot program is being funded by Chicago-area philanthropist
Wendy Abrams. This pilot program represents an investment of $50,000, divided
evenly across 5 schools, and the University
of Chicago’s Network for
College Success will evaluate the pilot program’s effectiveness in impacting
student attendance, at no cost of the city. Additional funds to extend the
pilot will be identified upon review of the first semester’s evaluation.
Five schools have been selected for the CTA Free Fare Card Pilot:
- TEAM Englewood
(6201 S. Stewart Avenue,
- Clemente (1147 N. Western Avenue, in West Town)
- Richards (5009 S. Laflin Street, in New City)
- Sullivan (6631 N. Bosworth Avenue, in Rogers
- Wells (936 N. Ashland Avenue, in West Town)
Each school has more than 90% of students receiving free/reduced lunch, a
high percentage of student commuters, and invested school principals who are
willing to implement the program.
Initiatives like this pilot that are aimed at getting students to school
affordably and effectively has had profound positive impacts in the past.
The program begins for the 500 students immediately. Principals at each
school will work to identify students for the pilot program. If you have a
student at TEAM Englewood,
be sure to ask about this program.
CHICAGO- Saturday, hundreds of children, adults,
and seniors poured into Washington
Park for Alderman Willie
B. Cochran’s 20th Ward Annual 2012 Back-to-School Picnic.
The festivities boasted a variety of food, games, clowns, live band,
gospel choir, and even horses.
At the picnic, Alderman Cochran provided more
than entertainment and school supplies for residents of Woodlawn, Englewood, and Back of the
Yards neighborhoods, he gave a boost of hope.
“Our children and their families
need support, not just financially, as with the school supplies that I
have given here today,” said Alderman Cochran. “They need to know that somebody
cares, and someone is willing to go the extra mile for them. That is why this
picnic is such a priority for me. I want the children to feel good about
themselves and I hope that feeling will resonate in the classroom.”
After enjoying a fun filled
afternoon, children of all ages lined up to get a backpack stuffed with paper,
pencils, pens, crayons, and other school supplies. This was a welcomed sight to
many children and parents who may have otherwise had difficulty getting the
things that they needed for school.
“I like school. I want to be
prepared for school,” says 8-year-old Brianna Browton. “Because of the
backpack, I will already have supplies instead of just struggling.”
“It brings students together and
there are a lot of people giving them things, and giving them opportunities,”
said Devon Browton, a junior at Simeon
“They may not have money to get book bags and they might not have money to get
school supplies, but with them giving it away for free, they will have the
The annual picnic took place from 10
a.m. until 4 p.m. Representatives from St. Bernard Hospital, Harmony
Healthcare, The University of Chicago Medical Center, The University of
Illinois at Chicago Chance Program, were there to give health care information.
Voter registration also took place at the picnic.
Picture of Alderman Cochran with Senator Durbin, Chancellor Hyman, Julie Stash-McArthur Foundation, Suzanna Vasquez-Local Initiative Support Corporation, celebrating the grand opening of the Center For Working Families.
Alderman Cochran started pursuing this initiative two years ago and saw it come into reality in October. This is an outstanding accomplishment for the City Colleges, being the first in the nation to incorporate a CFWF on a college campus, utilizing the curricula and career offerings at the school to advance and improve the quality of life for residents who are interested in taking advantage of the new center.
The Hull House is one of the partners with the City of Chicago, LISC and three New Community Programs (Woodlawn, Washington Park Consortium and Teamwork Englewood).
Please click on the following attachments to view a Powerpoint presentation about the Washington Park TIF and an Acquisition List Facts document also shared at community meetings. For additional information, please call 773-955-5610