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Special event license passed for alcohol sales during tournament in park

Thursday, September 26, 2013

With an opportunity to possibly lure a well-known softball group to Forsyth Park for a weekend tournament, the board of trustees was faced with the decision of allowing for a special event license that would permit the sale of alcohol in the park during a tournament.
The Decatur Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has been working with Illinois Amateur Softball Association in an effort to bring a tournament to town. The ASA considers a park’s facilities, hotel availability and prefers parks where alcohol can be sold.

Trustee Bob Gruenewald expressed his concern over compromising the park’s family-friendly image if beer sales were allowed, saying he did not want to see the village “go down the wrong path.”

Village Attorney Jeff Jurgens said that it’s not unusual for a municipality to have a special event license, adding that in this case, it’s come up in connection with the parks.

Teri Hammel, executive director for the DACVB, said in her tenure at the bureau she’s never had any issues with softball tournaments and the presence of alcohol.

“We’ve never had a problem in 16 years,” she said.

Hammel added that there are a lot of communities trying to land an ASA event of this type, which would likely include 12 teams, “because they are such moneymakers.”

Village Administrator Mike Miller asked Jurgens if it were possible to write up a one-time license for the purpose of negotiating with ASA and rescind it if they choose not to come to Forsyth.

Jurgens said the approach would be to tell ASA the license is available, but it would be necessary to come before the board for formal approval.

“Is it a matter of life and death?” Trustee Bob Rasho asked, calling it another rushed decision. “Why not wait until next year?”

“It’s because once these tournaments come open, these smaller towns grab them and keep them,” Mayor Marilyn Johnson responded.

There could possibly be a need for some alterations to fences at one of the diamonds, depending on what the ASA’s needs are, but as Mayor Johnson said, “If you don’t try it, you don’t know.”

Jurgens said it was possible to write the language in such a way as to require that alcohol be confined to one area of the park. In his report to the board, Jurgens also noted that the village code would have to be amended, but he wrote that it “would not be a blanket allowance for alcohol within the parks, but simply limited to authorized and permitted events.”

Hammel said that for the inaugural event, her group would put up the money for balls, umpires and any hotel fees for traveling umpires.

“We’d put up the expenses for a dry run to see if it goes well,” Hammel said. “As long as I can budget for it in 2014.”

The measure passed with “no” votes from Rasho and Gruenewald.

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