Future historians will highlight May 24, 2002 as a significant date in Peoria’s history— the beginning of the renaissance of Peoria in the 21st Century. The opening of O’Brien Field is the watershed event.
O’Brien Field is the new home of Peoria Chiefs and the Bradley Braves baseball teams. The facility will hold 7,500 fans and be central Illinois’ largest stadium and entertainment facility. It has the potential to hold up to 16,000 for various concerts and other family entertainment events.
The project took several years and endured several moments of crises before finally becoming a reality. It has been compared in importance to the opening of the Civic Center in 1982.
The support of the business community is critical to the success of O’Brien Field. Presently, the business community is demonstrating its support through sponsorships and leasing of the 20 available luxury suites. Approximately 1,500 out of 2,000 season tickets are already sold.
O’Brien Field must become the Summer place to be, just as the Civic Center during Bradley Basketball games is the place to be during the Winter months.
The importance of O’Brien Field, situated between Jefferson and Adams Streets and in near proximity to the riverfront, cannot be understated. An exciting future is coalescing in downtown, with the Civic Center and O’Brien Field, expansion of the Peoria Zoo, Peoria Regional Collaborative and the Lakeview Regional Museum. The renaissance of Peoria is clearly a vision people can now see.
Think of the economic corridor that could be developed. Think of the potential of this corridor with the Peoria Zoo at the north end, and as the Zoo expands toward the riverfront and going south along Jefferson and Adams to the Riverplex, to Caterpillar World Headquarters, to the Civic Center, to O’Brien Field, to Lakeview Regional Museum, continuing on to the South Gateway, out to the Peoria airport, coming back toward Western and then Main Street with a tech park.
This corridor already has the infrastructure—roads, rail and airport. It has water and established sewer lines, riverfront buildings that can be rehabilitated and remodeled, areas that can be redeveloped for growth and existing labor force. Think of the opportunities for an entertainment or cultural district.
There are many people to recognize for the convergence of events leading to our renaissance. One individual in particular is CAT Chairman Glen Barton. Despite his global responsibilities, Barton has taken an active leadership role and a personal interest in creating Peoria’s future.
Similar to any basketball team, when your biggest and best player sets the pace, everyone else elevates their performance. With CAT’s support and leadership, combined with the many talents, support and leadership of other community and business leaders, let the renaissance begin. IBI