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New Stadium Excites SIU's Lennon
New Southern Illinois head football coach Dale Lennon is about halfway through his first spring practice with the Salukis. He’s impressed with the athletic ability of his players and the work ethic of his team.
He should also be impressed with the plans for a new football stadium. The Carbondale City Council approved a half-cent sales tax increase that will provide $20 million to the “Saluki Way” project over a 20-year period.
“It’s exactly what this program needs to take the next step,” said Lennon, the former University of North Dakota head coach.
The tax is xpected to generate $2.3 million annually, so other city amenities will benefit like new police and fire stations. Bada bing, bada boom – just like that: new stuff and all it took was four votes of the City Council.
The tax was approved by the Carbondale City Council on a 4-3 vote. A vote of the people was not necessary, which would not fly around here. The city of Fargo requires a super majority of 60 percent approval for tax increases.
“Illinois politics continues to baffle me,” said Carbondale City Council member Joel Fritzler. “There’s hardly ever a referendum on the ballot.”
Fargo voters approved the Fargodome with just over 60 percent in favor of it. Only a 50 percent majority was needed to pass. But since the 60 percent super majority standard was established in 1996, a hockey arena and a zoo went down in flames. Meanwhile, voters approved sales tax money for a new jail and library.
In other words, there will never be anything called “Bison Way” as long as there is the 60 percent super majority in the home rule charter. It’s doubtful it would get 50 percent. The hockey arena in 2000 got only 37 percent of the vote. In 2005, the arena and events center slated for downtown Fargo got only 29 percent.
That is why people are finding other ways to fund arenas these days. The Urban Plains Center is privately funded, but will be owned and operated by the Fargo Park District. The basketball arena addition to the Fargodome, which is on the homestretch to being finalized, will be half funded, about $15 million, by NDSU. The other half will come from surplus sales tax money.
There’s no question Fargo needs a hockey arena and NDSU needs a new basketball arena just like SIU needs a new football stadium. “It’s seen better days,” Lennon said.
But while Fargo jumps through every hoop it can to fund a new facility, Carbondale needs just four votes. Fritzler said he talked to 50 residents and only two were in favor of the project “and those were administrators of the university,” he said.
“There were people in the public asking for a referendum,” Fritzler said. “But some of the council members go … ‘we’re elected to make these decisions, how dare you challenge us.’”
Stadium excites Lennon
Jeff Kolpack, The Forum