UW Health Sports Factory Opens in Rockford

1 Jul, 2016

Facility is Expected to Bring $8.4 Million in Additional Revenue to Region Annually

Dream Big! Win Big! Score! Hundreds cheered on various key leaders and organizations that participated in a ceremonial first serve symbolizing the opening of the UW Health Sports Factory, 305 S. Madison Street, Rockford.

 The City of Rockford, Rockford Park District (RPD), Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (RACVB), and Winnebago County Regional Tourism Facility Board (WCTFB) celebrated the completion of UW Health Sports Factory and another big step to retain, regain, and grow the sports tourism market in the Rockford region. 

The City of Rockford led the design and construction of the UW Health Sports Factory, Rockford Park District now owns and operates the facility, and Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau will lead tourism sales and marketing efforts. "Today marks an important moment in time. Years from now, we will look back on the opening of the UW Health Sports Factory as a catalytic moment that helped transform downtown Rockford and the region,” said John Groh, RACVB President/CEO. “Many individuals and organizations worked together to reclaim and redevelop this riverfront site into one of the country’s premier sports facilities. Our visitors will be able to compete in a world-class facility, and our residents will enjoy a higher quality of life and stronger economy as a result."

About UW Health Sports Factory: A once shuttered industrial factory located on the Rock River has been transformed into multiple hard courts for basketball, volleyball, pickleball, wresting, cheerleading, and other hard court uses.  The 108,000-square-foot facility includes 8 hardwood basketball courts that are convertible for 16 volleyball courts, along with a championship court complete with bleachers.  The hardwood courts are made of maple, and would be 104 miles long if laid out piece by piece, making it one of the largest hardwood floors inside a sports facility in the Midwest.  All hoops and volleyball nets are 100% suspended and without the use of any ground anchors.  The nets and hoops are controlled through a wireless system, and can be transformed in minutes via an Ipad or computer. The mezzanine or entry area includes front desk, concessions, and bathrooms; the second floor contains four meeting rooms and a full-service restaurant, which includes a patio overlooking the Rock River. Prairie Street Brewing Co. will operate the concession and restaurant.  The concession will open June 4, 2016, and the restaurant is expected to be complete mid-July. The facility also includes a Riverwalk, which goes around the entire building and features bump-out areas overlooking the Rock River, and a south patio featuring seating areas and a tent.  A large basketball hoop adorns the riverfront, and serves as a great photo opportunity for teams, as the basketball hoop is 10 feet in diameter, 250 pounds, and 30 feet high. 

UW Health Sports Factory grounds contain 429 total parking spaces, not including parallel parking on South Madison Street.  The lower parking lot has 130 spaces including 5 additional accessible spots, and the upper lot has 294 spaces including 8 accessible spots. The City acquired and demolished the former Rockford Public Schools administration building for additional parking.  The project also integrates the Watch Factory property, primarily for parking in support of tournament activities. A tunnel runs underneath Union Pacific railroad tracks, and provides a walkway to connect guests to the lower and upper parking lots.

UW Health Sports Factory construction began on February 9, 2015, and took 15 months to complete, creating 125 construction jobs. "The opening of the UW Health Sports Factory marks the culmination of years of hard work of current and past City Councils, City staff, and our partners to develop this facility along the shores of our beautiful Rock River," stated Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey. "This spectacular venue demonstrates what is possible when partners focus on results instead of credit. No single person or organization is responsible for this success. Many had a hand in this work. With the support of our community, we did together what none of us could do alone. Many thanks for the courage and commitment of all who made this possible. We have done our part in shaping our community's positive future."

"The end result is the only credit that matters," Morrissey continued. "The positive experience of the many young people and their families who will utilize this facility is our credit. As we open this facility for the first time and open up sections of our riverfront for the first time, my hope is that this accomplishment will further energize us and inspire us. My hope is that the confidence and optimism this project embodies will further propel us to create our positive future. To pursue our vision of Excellence Everywhere for Everyone, now and for generations to come."

About Reclaiming First: Reclaiming First is a community-wide comprehensive plan to enhance and enlarge the sports facilities in the Rockford area to reclaim the region’s dominance in sports tourism. The plan will retain, regain, and grow sports tourism in an increasingly competitive market vying for sports tourism dollars, and provide world class amateur sports tournament facilities for Rockford area residents. As a result of the regional support from citizens and elected officials, this ambitious project has evolved considerably since its conception in 2010. The now $54 million capital project includes the UW Health Sports Factory and expansion of the existing indoor/outdoor center near Interstate-90. An unprecedented level of intergovernmental and regional collaboration, and community coordination is credited for turning this initiative into a tangible project. For more information about the Reclaiming First initiative visit

Reclaiming First Funding: UW Health Sports Factory construction costs totaled $24.4 million, which included land acquisition, upper and lower tier construction, and contingencies.  As a pillar of the Reclaiming First initiative, UW Health Sports Factory construction was financed by a consortium of funding sources, including: City of Rockford, Rockford Park District, a Winnebago County hotel tax, and various grants from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

Funding sources breakdown:

  • Reclaiming First/WCRTFB – 12%

  • Rockford Park District – 15%

  • City of Rockford – 30%

  • Grant Sources – 42% (USEPA - $2 million, DCEO - $10 million)

This community-wide comprehensive plan required the joint effort of regional municipalities and state legislative members who pushed the authorization and implementation of a 2% hotel/motel tax to help fund the sports complexes’ expansion and the institution of the WCRTFB, which includes members from the County of Winnebago, the cities of Loves Park, Rockford and South Beloit, villages of Cherry Valley, Machesney Park, Rockton, and Roscoe, the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Rockford Park District.  “This funding equation is really monumental in itself, as you have an unprecedented level of intergovernmental, regional, and community collaboration providing a funding mechanism to turn an idea into a tangible project.  Other municipalities in Illinois have been watching, calling, learning, and might even potentially mimic this funding equation for their own construction projects.  UW Health Sports Factory has created a new type of synergy among municipalities,” said Rockford Park District Executive Director Tim Dimke. 

In addition to formal approval of the hotel tax by each WCRTFB member entity, financial pledges were also made from their operational budgets, including $7 million from Winnebago County, $10 million from the City of Rockford, $10 million in State of Illinois grants (including a $2.5 million PARC grant and $641,000 tourism grant), $9 million from Rockford Park District, $3.38 million from Loves Park, $75,000 from Machesney Park, and $20,000 from Cherry Valley. WCRTFB members are also providing in-kind support to the project, such as Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau marketing to attract major tournaments and conventions, County of Winnebago administrating collection of the hotel tax, and the City of Rockford managing design, construction, and funding for the downtown facility project.

In November, 2015, the Rockford Park District and SwedishAmerican, a division of UW Health, announced a 10-year naming rights agreement totaling $1,938,248, and includes naming rights to the downtown facility, including logo incorporation with exterior signage, print materials, web exposure, and the opportunity for SwedishAmerican and UW Health employees to use the facility for designated employee events.  Rockford Park District will receive an annual fee beginning at $175,000, with subsequent increases tied to the local Consumer Price Index.  “Both UW Health and SwedishAmerican are extremely proud to have a role in this truly unique and one-of-a-kind sports facility in downtown Rockford,” says SwedishAmerican President & CEO Dr. Bill Gorski. “This investment reflects our commitment to continue to advance the downtown area, and it showcases our proud and long-standing history of community partnerships.”

About UW Health: SwedishAmerican became a division of UW Health in early 2015.  Every day, specialists from UW Health are right here in Rockford working alongside the doctors at SwedishAmerican, helping patients with cancer and heart disease, performing complex robotic surgeries, and helping children beat the odds. UW Health is an academic health system associated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It encompasses the research, education, and patient care activities that take place at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and within UW Hospitals and Clinics Authority.  UW School of Medicine and Public Health is the nation’s only combined school of medicine and public health.  It’s 1,500 faculty in 10 basic science and 17 clinical departments engage in research, education, and clinical care at UW hospitals and clinics, other Madison hospitals, and approximately 90 regional locations.

Economic Impact: In addition to providing state-of-the-art recreational facilities for Rockford’s residents, UW Health Sports Factory is already creating a huge buzz in the sports tourism industry.  During  weekdays, the facility will provide the perfect location for lessons, leagues, camps, and practices for youth and adults participating in volleyball, basketball, wheelchair basketball, and adapted boccia ball. The facility is also available for private rentals.

On weekends, UW Health Sports Factory will host amateur sports tournaments that are projected to bring $8.4 million of additional revenue, 80% of which will come from out-of-state visitors, into our region annually. This revenue inflow also means the creation of more than 130 secondary jobs throughout the region, and 46 jobs that will be created by the Rockford Park District to operate and maintain the facility.

Rockford Hoops of Palatine, IL is the first tournament to be hosted at UW Health Sports Factory, and has agreed to hold the event for the next three years, occupying the facility for a total of 21 weekends during the first year alone.  Rockford Hoops inaugural tournament takes place June 4-5, 2016 when 48 teams will participate. Future weekends will include 100 teams, meaning roughly 3,000 players, parents, siblings, and coaches will be in Rockford; this tournament alone has an estimated economic impact of $90,000.  From June 2016 through May 2017, UW Health Sports Factory will host 46 basketball, 2 wheelchair basketball, 11 volleyball, and 2 table tennis tournaments.

Additional information about UW Health Sports Factory can be found online at


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