Electronic billboards on Joliet Park District property aren't going to happen because the danger of losing major sponsors for such events as Taste of Joliet is too great, park district Executive Director Dominic Egizio said Tuesday.
In his mind, Egizio said, the issue is dead because the district's request to have right of first refusal on all ads displayed on the three signs was rejected by Impact Outdoor co-owner Rod Hursh.
"I was hoping we could come to some agreement, but that doesn't seem likely," he said.
"(Hursh) needs to make money off these boards, and we understand that. (Even if there was right of first refusal), it's a lot of work for us and maybe we don't want to even get into that."
Egizio's position came as news to Hursh, who said he's been working on a new compromise proposal, and to Joliet Assistant City Manager Ben Benson, who has been the middleman in getting the electronic signs added to Joliet monument displays that already sit on park district land.
"I'm very surprised to hear this," Hursh said. "As far as I know, they're waiting for another proposal from us."
Hursh would like to incorporate the LED billboards into city monument displays that already exist at Route 59 and Caton Farm Road near the Wedgewood Golf Course and on Jefferson Street near the Joliet Regional Airport. A third sign would be on Houbolt Road, also on airport land, near the Joliet Junior College campus.
The boards would be similar in design to the one erected this summer at Larkin Avenue and Theodore Street. It features ads that flip every few seconds, a certain number of which are designated for Joliet events and announcements in exchange for being part of the monument display.
The park district would be given the same ability to advertise its activities and events free of charge, Benson said.
"I really hate to see the park district miss out on this opportunity," he said.
The sticking point, Egizio said, are the exclusive deals the district has with such major event sponsors as D'arcy Volkswagen and Provena St. Joseph Medical Center.
To have a billboard on park district property that might advertise a competing car dealership or hospital could be seen as a violation of the sponorship contracts, he said.
"We have a half a million dollars in sponsorships," Egizio said. "A lot of our programs, like Taste of Joliet, wouldn't happen without them."
Benson said he understands Egizio's situation, but believes there are ways to ensure that sponsorships are not jeopardized without the park district needing to review all of the ads that run on the boards.
Hursh said he intends to complete a new proposal, as was discussed at the park board's last meeting, and that he may reach out to board members and park district sponsors for feedback. He'd like an opportunity for the board to hear from him directly, perhaps at the Oct. 22 meeting, he said.
"This is a phenomenal opportunity for the park district that I can't believe they'd turn down," he said.