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Intersport could get another chance

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published July 16, 2007, 3:06 p.m.)

Intersport might take another swing at building a multi-sport complex for youth in Walworth County.

County officials have asked them to give it thought.

Six members of the county board-Allan Polyock, Margaret Downing, Jerry Grant, Larry Hilbelink, Dorothy Burwell and Sandra Wagie-Troemel-signed a letter with "starting points" for re-opening negotiations with the Chicago-based sports marketing and television production company.

The letter, sent May 31 to Walworth County Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Fred Burkhardt, proposes not leasing any land to Intersport but instead selling the company 90 to 100 acres at $10,000 per acre. The cost of any additional acreage needed for later complex expansion would be negotiated as needed, and the county would hold the land in trust for a number of years.

It also proposes a player user fee be paid to the county, starting at $5 per player and escalating in subsequent years.

Finally, the proposal says Intersport could not sell or lease any of the land bought from the county for a negotiated number of years.

Burkhardt and alliance President Jerry Waelti visited Intersport officials earlier this month.

"We asked if they would still be looking at Walworth County. 'Of course,' they said, if they had a majority (of the county board) asking them if they would." Waelti said.

Last year, Intersport had sought to buy 250 acres of county-owned land off County NN to build approximately two-dozen baseball diamonds, plus soccer fields and indoor basketball and volleyball courts. The facility would also have player dorms.

The county board had given preliminary approval to a land deal that would have sold the property at $3,000 per acre. That decision later was rescinded by a 13-10 vote, and Intersport officials said the county missed out on a "great opportunity."

Waelti said Intersport seemed interested in bringing a proposal back for the county land if enough on the county board were behind the project.

"If the majority of the county board asked them to come back and work out a deal with them, I think they would talk to the county again," Waelti said.

The company also seemed interested in finding land owned privately and reportedly had offers to build in at least two other unnamed communities, Waelti said.

Waelti did not know if the company's plans changed in size or scope.

The Janesville Gazette was not able to reach Intersport officials for comment.

Downing said the letter contains only suggested starting points for negotiations.

She was not sure how other members of the board feel about the idea of renewing discussions with Intersport.

"We don't know if we'll have any more support for this," Downing said. "If it's a benefit to the county, we'll have to look at it."

Many in the community panned Intersport's original proposal, saying the price offered for prime agricultural land was too low.

The thought of thousands of extra visitors during the summer months also didn't sit well with many residents.

The concept of having such a sports facility generated support from local chambers of commerce and the Walworth County Visitors Bureau.

Intersport thought it could pump $6.3 million into the local economy annually after it had the first 10 baseball diamonds were up and running.

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