DECATUR — The state is issuing a $200,000 payment for improvements to the Decatur Civic Center, part of a grant that was suspended.
The state in 2016 approved a $2.1 million grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Officials at the time said improvements were needed on the roof and to mechanical systems.
The grant was suspended in 2017 by Gov. Bruce Rauner and reinstated in December 2017.
State Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker, in a statement, said the comptroller's office notified him of the $200,000 on Tuesday. The state still owes Decatur $634,539 toward the grant.
The building includes the Ameren Illinois Arena, 460-seat theater and meeting rooms, plus municipal offices. It is owned and operated by the Decatur Metropolitan Exposition Auditorium & Office Building Authority.
The newest payment to the authority allows civic center officials to finish various upgrades to the building by the summer of 2019, according to Christopher Brodnicki, general manager of the Decatur Civic Center.
Originally the grant gave civic center officials two years to complete various improvement projects by November of this year: upgrades to the building's heating-and-cooling systems, a repaving of the parking lot, and updates to the civic center theater's lighting and sound technology.
Now officials will have until Oct. 31, 2019 to complete the work.
"So they gave us another year, which is wonderful, we're very appreciative for the state doing that," Brodnicki said.
Some improvements that are part of the state grant already have been made. Last year, upgrades were made to lobby restrooms. Ameren became a sponsor of the arena in February, paying $27,000 for three years.
In September, crews will repave the parking lot, according to Brodnicki.
The city signed a 99-year lease agreement with the civic center authority in 1980, the same year the facility opened. Last year, the city's rent for the year totaled $400,000.
In April, Brodnicki explained the civic center gets its operating income largely from the city's rent, which in turn supports events and programming.
The authority went through tough financial years after the Great Recession, Brodnicki said at the time, but more recently has stabilized and been able to attract more people to its events.
"It's picking up here in the last couple years, and same with ice skating," Brodnicki said four months ago. The ice rink in the center's arena is one of the main features of the building, outside of the city offices and its theater space.
"There were times in the '90s when we had public ice skating sessions during the weekdays. There was such a demand for it," he said. "Our goal here isn't to make a big profit on everything, just to pay for what we're doing and have the community involved."
City officials have raised the possibility of moving the city's offices as part of an effort to combine city-owned building space downtown. The city also owns the Decatur Public Library building.
If the city's offices were to leave the building, it's unclear how the space would be filled.
Asked if a private entity would be able to lease the government space, Assistant General Manager Mike Pritchett said in April the authority is still looking into that. "We have not gotten that far since (a city office move) is still in the study stages," he said.