Breaking News: A plan to replace the airport soccer fields

By:  Diane Benjamin

Illinois Fire Juniors and Prairie City Soccer League announced today a plan to build their own complex on 100 acres bordered by Raab Rd, Towanda Avenue, and Old Route 66.  the claim to have raised $3.5 million in cash, pledges, and in-kind donations.  None of it is from government, although it is not known what infrastructure improvements will be needed.

From a Press Release today:

The IFJ capital campaign aims to bring private financial support to our community wide efforts to provide continued excellence and access to travel and recreation soccer programs for current and future generations.

The IFJ plan, which includes a 100 acre complex with lights, turf, bathrooms, concessions, and an indoor training area, will be designed to not only accommodate soccer, but to also allow for use by other sports such as Lacrosse, Cricket, and Football.

“We understand this complex is not just about our kids, just about our club, or just about soccer” said Jeremy Kelley, Illinois Fire Juniors Secretary and Co-Chair of the IFJ Capital Campaign. “Our members have seen first-hand how other communities benefit from the growing sports tourism industry. When we started this effort a few years back, we were not just thinking about our soccer club, we were also thinking about the positive impact this can have on our larger community.’

‘Being a part of the Chicago Fire franchise and the U.S. Youth Soccer Association, provides even greater access to opportunities year-round,’ explains Tim Koch, President of Illinois Fire Juniors and the Prairie Cities Soccer League (PCSL). ‘Some of these future soccer opportunities include additional tournaments, Presidents Cup/State Cup matches, and Olympic Development Program (ODP) trainings. Partnering with the Chicago Fire, the IHSA, areas high schools, and our local universities provides even greater opportunities. We know this is a unique moment in time where if we dream just a bit bigger and get this right, we have a chance to positively impact our entire community.’

What ultimately has emerged from the IFJ Capital Campaign is a bold plan to transition away from Community Fields and transform towards a multi sports complex that can become a regional tournament headquarters in the Midwest.

The IFJ Capital Campaign includes three goals:

• The building of a field complex to replace our current facilities;
• The creation of an endowment fund to support expanded scholarships; and,
• The establishment of a regional tournament complex.

The complex implementation plan has three phases. Phase 1 will start as soon as possible and focus on the infrastructure work needed for the complex, leveling the ground to prepare for the main playing surface area, and building a new pond that will double as a regional water retention basin for the area. Phase 2 concentrates on expanded fields and parking, while Phase 3 focuses on an indoor facility.

Once completed, the entire complex will hold 10 full sized, 400 feet by 300 feet fields, 7 youth sized 7 v 7 fields, a championship field, and room for a 280 foot by 560 foot indoor training facility.

Bordered by Raab road on the north, Towanda avenue on the west, Route 66 on the south, and Veterans Parkway on the east, this prime location right off the highway is close to many IFJ club members and will provide easy access to thousands from across the Midwest who will drive to the complex and spend time and money right here in our community.


More information is available on the Illinois Fire Juniors website:




14 thoughts on “Breaking News: A plan to replace the airport soccer fields

  1. What happened to being a kid playing in a soccer field without professional stadiums? This is off the wall it will impact the community and we can’t even fill the seats in the US at a professional soccer stadiums with other type venues trying to cover the loss. How will they fill the seats? Soccer stadiums are hurting right now.

    I’m at loss.

    Where’s the 500/1000 page Analysis reporting?

    Local Market conditions, Competitive Facilities, Industry Trends, Demand Generators (especially being an outdoor stadium), etc. ????

    1. Mike: It’s being proposed as a multi-sports complex not a stadium but your point is well taken. You have to realize that many of these parents in travel sports programs are delusional. Some guy or gal walks up to them and tells them at age 10, their kid is s sports prodigy and the rest is history. I officiated different sports back in the day and it only gets worse with each passing generation. The mom or dad couldn’t do it so the kid is good by to do it for them. It’s why you see the high burnout rate for kids up and quiting something they used to love at 16. In the short future, there won’t be enough game officials around to even have organized athletics at any level since most are quitting after two or three years for excessive verbal abuse from parents and coaches and at times, physical threats.

    2. I am happy to see this and hope it puts the final nail in the “multisports complex.” However we must remain vigilant. I fully support private investment for this project. Conversely, I oppose government investment for it.

  2. Is Jeremy Kelley the same guy that ran for Bloomington City Council a few years ago and lost to Emily Buragus? Looking back he ran as a fiscal conservative but was willing to let Normal and/or Bloomington taxpayers pay for a multi-million dollar sports complex only a few months ago? This dude should should be raising funds for his alma mater if he was able to coordinate $3.5 million in such a short time? Can’t and won’t say anything right now but I can guess where the majority of this is coming from if they really have most of it at all. I’ll believe the private infrastructure when I see it.

  3. No tax dollars?! Wow! I’m impressed. The government elites and their pals must be crying like babies. That said, let’s keep a watchful eye on this one. If this group gets in over their heads, I’m sure the local governments will tangle tax dollars in front of them in exchange for a deal with the devil. Rooting for a purely private investment and success story!

  4. I wish them the best and hope this is done without taxpayer subsidy. However, Koos and co have a long history of saying one thing then doing another.

    I anticipate some type of handouts, be it in the form of fee waivers, road or infrastructure improvements, mowing and maintenance, no property taxes, or money funneled through the B/N Tourism Bureau or park district.

    When the “Indoor Facility” phase starts the town will pay for a big chunk of it, guaranteed. There is no money to fix our roads outside of uptown, but magically there will be money to fund the sports complex.

    I hope I’m wrong, but Koos and Co have such a history of their pet projects happening regardless of the cost to taxpayers. Look no further than what they continue to cram through their Uptown dream projects like the underpass, trail East and the vacant 1 Uptown building.

    We already have 2 failed sports tourism ventures on the taxpayer’s dime, the coliseum and the cornbelters. Good luck to the Fire Jr’s just please don’t ask taxpayers to pay for this, we are already buried in taxes and struggling to afford to live here already.

  5. I don’t care if someone wants to build a project with private funds that will do some sort of job creation and drive traffic to our businesses. This type of work should be championed by the CVB and all the other governmental/quasi-governmental agencies wanting to drive tourism here. If this is the next Champion Fields, amazing.

    People wanted to get this done, and they did it. It took hard work vs turning to government to fund. It appears there are a lot of people, especially in Normal government who need to take a step back about looking at government handouts to friends/associates.

  6. After looking at the property, no way this project is done with private funds on the level they want to do it. The property is currently zoned agriculture. It will require multiple entrance and exit points off a busy Towanda Avenue and off a Raab Road that is not extended and ends at east end of the property. It also lies among established public utility lines and features two creek beds that will fill during rain. The mention of having a public detention would raise any eyebrows that some type of government involvement will be in the picture. Also they are also looking at an expensive environmental impact study. I hope the $3.5 million is already in the bank. It might cover part of Phase One to say nothing of the infrastructure improvements they will need for Raab Road improvements and access. Guess time will tell but at the level they are talking about, they will need millions above $3.5 million. Hope they are planning millions in in-kind work and donations to say nothing of the maintenance costs they will face afterwards. I think they are banking on alot of help from the professional Chicago Fire and yet to be named sources.

    1. I am willing to give them a chance, like Rivian. So far, I have been impressed by what Rivian has brought in and the investments made. Are there tax dollars being used to incentivize? Yes. However, with that comes some benefits to our labor market. With that comes people getting better jobs and moving into the community. Those people buy bigger houses; they buy houses when they move here. Up goes our property tax values. Those people use the existing infrastructure.

      Is Rivian a “success” yet? No. But at least they’re showing they are making progress.

      Will this project need some sort of public expenses? Yes. But let’s let them come to the table. I am not sure what the public investment is each year in Champion Fields. However, I do know there is a lot of tourism revenue those fields bring in with all the softball tournaments. Think of all the weekends our hotels and restaurants are full. In between games, you see people out shopping in our stores or in the evenings, going to our breweries. If the same thing happens with soccer and there are more weeks/weekends with increased hotel occupancy and more restaurant bills with taxes being paid, then that is a good thing. Plus, maybe they also host games at the Corn Crib and get more use out of that.

      I can get, with all that has been done recently, being negative. But I don’t think you can start with already writing this off.

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