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Orland Park Trustee William Healy is not keen on spending money upgrading audio and visual systems in the money-losing Civic Center. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Orland Park Trustee William Healy is not keen on spending money upgrading audio and visual systems in the money-losing Civic Center. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

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‘White Elephant’ Civic Center a center of attention at Orland Park board meeting

By Jeff Vorva

It appears that over the years, the Orland Park Civic Center may have become the “white elephant” that long-ago village trustee William Vogel was worried about.

Shortly before the center opened its doors to a business expo in September 1989 to debut the new place, Vogel told the Star Newspaper, “Let’s face it, if we don’t make this successful, it’s going to be a white elephant.”

Flash forward to Monday night.

The Civic Center became the center of some unwanted attention after the board of trustees voted 5-1 to spend $550,000 to upgrade audio and visual systems in board room, lobby of Village Hall and the Civic Center.

Mayor Keith Pekau was absent due to a personal family issue and trustee William Healy voted “no.” Healy said he loved the idea of the upgrades for the board room and lobby but put his foot down about upgrades at the Civic Center.

“The Civic Center has been a loss leader for years and this is quite a lot to spend there,” he said. “I object to spending money on the Civic Center without a more formal plan about how were going to recover the money we lose. I would like to see a better plan on how it’s going to pay off in the long run.”

From 1989 through 2019, the Civic Center was run by the Orland Park Civic Center Authority. Village Manager George Koczwara said that group dissolved and the village took over running the building Jan. 1, 2020.

Koczwara said the village will be conducting a facilities assessment in the future and the Civic Center will be a part of it.

“It’s one of the things we are looking at it,” Koczwara said after the meeting. “We will be looking at several questions. “Do we have too many buildings? Do we not have enough buildings? Are we using them to the max? That’s part of the discussion.”

The facility has more than 10,000 square feet of space with the largest room being close to 4,000 square feet. Over the years, it has hosted business expos, trade shows, theatrical performances, private events and used to be the home of the Chilly Willie Chili Challenge, an event that brought some of the top chili makers in the world to town.

Trustee Cynthia Katsenes, who ran Monday’s meeting in Pekau’s absence, said that as long as the village has to deal with a money-losing entity, she is in favor of making a push to bring in more events.

“I would like to see a marketing plan for the Civic Center,” she said. “As trustee Healy said, we would like to recoup some of that money. Hopefully we can market it for not only weddings and showers, but to the business community.”

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