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Intersport exploring options elsewhere

--- More support needed for return trip to Walworth County

Mike Heine/The Week

(Published July 25, 2007, 1:26 p.m.)

Intersport needs a solid majority of the county board behind it before entertaining any ideas of bringing back its plan to build a youth sports complex on a plot of county-owned land east of Elkhorn.

"We're not interested in going back to Walworth County with just a handful of the board being behind us," said President of Baseball Operations Steve Colombo. "We would be interested in speaking to them again if a majority interest in the board was to bring us back to the negotiating table. If it's a small minority, we have no interest. We are working with other communities right now."

That's good news to those who didn't want a private company buying public property.

"Let them go find private land and go through the whole zoning process to let everyone have their say," said Joy Smage of W3869 Bray Road, Elkhorn. She would have been a neighbor to the complex had it been built.

Six members of the county board--Allan Polyock, Margaret Downing, Jerry Grant, Larry Hilbelink, Dorothy Burwell and Sandra Wagie-Troemel--asked the non-profit Walworth County Economic Development Alliance to reestablish contact with Intersport.

A trip to the Chicago-based company showed Intersport hadn't ruled out Walworth County, but it was seeking options elsewhere, alliance President Jerry Waelti said.

Colombo was mum on where else Intersport is looking. He said plans are "far down the road" with another Wisconsin community and there are two other Midwest communities "waiting in the wings."

He did not rule out considering privately owned locations in Walworth County if they met the company's needs for close access to major transportation routes and available lodging.

The county approved Intersport's concept plan by a 14-11 vote in January. But after much public outcry the board, in March, turned heel and rescinded the vote 13-10, sending Intersport packing.

There are no current plans to revisit the project on the county level, County Administrator David Bretl said.

Intersport doesn't want to go down the path again of having close votes, Colombo said.

"We're happy about where we are right now," Colombo said. "We were disappointed in the rescinding vote in March, but those things happen. There are a lot of great people on the county board, a lot of great business owners and a lot of great people that have shown interested in having us there. We appreciate that support."

Intersport had sought to initially build 10 baseball diamonds and 24 player cabins on 190 acres of county owned land north of the Judicial Center on County NN. It wanted to later acquire and 60 more acres and add more baseball diamonds, soccer fields and indoor basketball and volleyball courts.

Intersport claimed it could add a $6.3 million annual economic boost to the county.

The major hang-up with the proposal was the selling price of the land. Intersport wanted to pay no more than $3,000 per acre of prime agricultural fields located very near U.S. Highway 12 and Interstate 43. The land could probably be sold for more than $10,000 per acre, realtors have said.


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