A Publication of WTVP

In his capacity as Director of Tourism, Special Events & Facilities for the City of East Peoria, Dan Cunningham is plugged into the sports world in central Illinois. Cunningham manages EastSide Centre, a crown jewel among local sports facilities, which includes 10 baseball/softball fields, four soccer fields, football stadium and track, 58,000-square-foot fitness building and the Splashdown water park across 110 acres. The facility hosts more than 2,400 games annually, and in a good year, it attracts a million-plus visitors.

Describe your background and past career.
I am a lifelong resident of East Peoria, except for a couple of years in Southern Illinois while attending college. My previous work career was split between Caterpillar and SVI Systems.

What are the major duties of your current position?
I oversee the day-to-day operations of EastSide Centre, the city’s maintenance department and the city’s tourism efforts.

About what percentage of your time is driven by sports or recreational activities?
About 75 percent of my time is taken up by EastSide activities.

When and how did EastSide Centre get its start?
EastSide Centre opened for business in July of 1997. EastSide is financed through tax revenue generated by the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino. Debt service on the facility will be retired in 2017.

What makes EastSide one of the premier athletic facilities in the Midwest?
The people of East Peoria. I have an outstanding staff, combined with the efforts of the people who call EastSide home, the youth groups and local school districts who service our guests to such a degree that they all want to return.

What are some of the major tournaments EastSide hosts or has hosted in the past?
The IHSA State Softball Tournament for the past 11 years, the IESA State Track and Baseball Championships for the last 13 years, the GLVC Softball Championships for the last seven years, and numerous NSA State and National Championships for the last 10 years. We have long-term contracts with the IHSA, IESA and NSA that give us a solid base every year, and when you toss in the events that our youth groups bring in, we are booked solid from May to August.

How does the weather factor into outdoor facilities management?
Weather is an influence here, as it is everywhere, but we have great facilities and a great staff that is trained to handle the elements.

What was the impact of the “Great Recession” of 2008-2010 on revenue?
We remained pretty consistent and didn’t feel the pinch as bad as some industries and businesses.

What is your outlook for the future?
We are always looking to the future and will hopefully have some major announcements in the future.

Anything else you’d like to add?
EastSide is a great tribute to the people of East Peoria and their hard work, from the early days of volunteering when the facility was built to all the events this year, when their efforts will once again be the key to our success.