Oak Brook officials have decided to ask voters in a Nov. 8 advisory referendum if they want the village to invest $2,872,980 for capital improvements over the next 10 years to continue operating the banquet facility of the Bath & Tennis Club at the Sports Core.
The village owns and manages the Oak Brook Sports Core, which includes golf, soccer, swimming pool, tennis, banquets and food service operations. Each of the those operations functions financially at an average of break-even or cash flow positive, with the exception of the banquet operation, Village Manager Greg Summers said. He said the banquet operation operates at an average annual operating loss of approximately $202,000.
The banquet facility of the Sports Core over the last five years has lost $282,091, $171,501, $159,369, $300,796 and $97,58, respectively, according to Summers.
He said the capital improvements expenditure would average just over $287,000 a year for the 10 years.
The referendum question specifically asks voters if they believe the village should invest $2,872,980 for capital improvements over the next 10 years to continue operating the Sports Core banquet facility, even though records reflect that the banquet facility is used predominantly by nonresidents, which requires continuing to use the general fund to cover the facility’s operating losses.
“I think it’s important to note that the money for this doesn’t come from a dedicated fund, but rather the General Fund, which is the same fund we use for our police and fire departments,” Village Board member Michael Manzo said.
A motion to put the advisory referendum on the ballot was approved Tuesday Aug. 9 by a 4-0 vote, with board members Asif Yusuf and Jim Nagle absent. A recommendation to hold an advisory referendum came from village staff.
“It’s always a good idea to get public opinion,” board member Ed Tiesenga said.
“It’s good to gauge what the residents of Oak Brook think of this,” he said. “Put it on the ballot and let the debate begin.”
The staff’s recommendation to put the question on the ballot came after the village’s Sports Core Advisory Committee met July 6 to review information and make a recommendation to the Village Board on future food service operations for the banquet operation, Golf Café, and Poolside Café.
The Sports Core Advisory Committee focused on the fact that the Golf Café has been profitable for each of the last five years, and the Poolside Café has been close to cost-neutral each year, even with challenges related to delayed pool openings and other challenges.
A look at the steady losses of the banquet operation resulted in a discussion about how to handle the loss.
It was the committee’s suggestion to consider placing the question on the ballot so that Oak Brook voters could weigh in.
Chuck Fieldman is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.