On April 7th, Peoria County voters will make a critical decision about what kind of future our children, grandchildren and region will experience. Will we embrace a vision for a vibrant downtown Peoria where the combined Caterpillar Visitor Center and Peoria Riverfront Museum will bring outstanding educational and entertainment experiences? Or will we allow this seven-acre riverfront property in the heart of our city to remain empty?
If the public facilities referendum on April 7th fails, this once-in-a-lifetime project will simply end, and the $90 million already committed will be gone. This includes the Caterpillar Experience, as Caterpillar officials have repeatedly said they will not build their global visitors center if the Peoria Riverfront Museum is not built.
The huge benefits of Build The Block far outweigh the small public investment being asked of Peoria County residents. This project is our own homegrown economic stimulus project that will create up to 300 jobs per month for our local construction trades for 25 months. Additionally, all of the architecture, vendors for building materials and general contracting will come from local businesses and firms.
The hands-on, interactive educational opportunities for our children and grandchildren will be tremendous. Imagine your children or grandchildren:
- Encountering a 24-foot-tall 797B Caterpillar mining truck and then watching a film of Caterpillar’s global impact from theatre chairs in the 380-ton-capacity dump body of the same truck
- Feeling the excitement of building a highway through a Caterpillar virtual reality simulator
- Exploring the mystical undersea world in the 3D IMAX or the cosmos in the NASA-funded PowerDome planetarium
- Discovering the Illinois River through the interactive Science Lab where kids can pilot the barge, control flooding in a replica of downtown Peoria, or manage a miniature river through functional locks and dams
- Testing their skills in the Illinois High School Association’s 39 sports and activities from basketball to chess and music.
These are just some of the incredible learning opportunities that await our children and grandchildren if we support the public facilities referendum. If it fails, they will be gone, and future generations will miss out on these educational experiences.
The April 7th referendum calls for a quarter-of-one-cent sales tax increase that starts in 2010 and sunsets in 20 years. This would mean $17 per year for the average Peoria County resident—a medium cup of coffee at McDonald’s per month. The sales tax would not apply to groceries, medical items or titled goods. People who come to Peoria County to buy retail items or eat at our restaurants will be supporting the project through the sales tax. Peoria County residents will receive a 15 percent discount on admission to the museum. If the referendum passes, Peoria County’s sales tax would be the same as Tazewell County, and still less than Woodford County.
The last time the Peoria area faced an economic recession (16% unemployment) in the early 1980s, civic leaders had the courage to build the Peoria Civic Center with nearly 70 percent local public funds. It too faced opposition. Yet, they chose to embrace a brighter vision of Peoria’s future. How many of us have benefited from the Peoria Civic Center?
Build The Block is supported with 57 percent in private funds and nearly $7 million in federal and state funds. All of this will go away if the referendum does not pass.
Please join us on April 7th in voting yes for the public facilities referendum and embracing a bold vision that will enhance the quality of life for future generations. iBi