Request for Proposals

Competitive and Recreational Rowing Center

City of Blue Island

Blue Island, IL

Posted: 05/01/2014
Submittal Deadline: 05/23/2014



Background: The City of Blue Island is a non-home rule unit of local government, serving a population of approx. 23,700 residents. Blue Island was first settled in 1835, incorporated as a Village in 1872 and as a City in 1901. The City of Blue Island enjoys a unique position in the south suburbs, possessing uncommon assets and considerable potential for future investment and growth. With an extensive network of major roadways and convenient, frequent public transit connections to and from the greater Chicago region (via six Metra stations, Pace Bus service, and the nearby CTA), Blue Island is well-matched to the needs of businesses and employees alike. Excellent health care and recreational facilities, walkable neighborhoods, and a diverse housing stock are other key assets that make Blue Island a great place to live, work, and raise a family. The recently adopted Comprehensive Plan, Complete Streets Ordinance, Active Transportation Plan and ongoing development of the Cal-Sag Trail will assist the City in enhancing economic success and improve community health while making the area more attractive to visitors. The development of a waterfront plan for Blue Island along the Cal-Sag Channel in response to the leasing of 130 riverfront acres to the City provides further opportunity to spark interest in and along the local waterways.

Geographically, Blue Island is located just outside the City of Chicago’s corporate limits and forms part of the south suburban area. Blue Island’s geographic location straddling the Cal-Sag Channel, and the physical characteristics of the channel itself, have lured competitive rowing groups and non-organized recreational paddle sports to the community, and demonstrated a demand among college rowing teams for a course in the Calumet Region. The Cal-Sag Channel is uniquely suited to high-level rowing competitions due to its weak current, protection from wind and straightness. Blue Island has already hosted several Division I regattas, attracting men’s and women’s teams from most of the Big Ten schools and further afield, such as Boston College, MIT, Dartmouth, Virginia and Notre Dame. A lane system was installed in the Cal-Sag Channel (with MWRD and USACE) but needs modest expansion to host the highest level of competition. Further, the Cal-Sag Channel is a working canal. The lane cables lay on the bottom of the channel, but are winched into position for events. Blue Island has approval for a specified number of waterway closures every year.

Past competitions have included a three-mile headrace and a 2000 meter Olympic style course. Each regatta attracts approximately 1,000 people and could attract many more with permanent infrastructure in place. Several area rowing clubs, high schools and colleges have expressed interest in using the rowing center as a permanent home, beginning a continuum of training to attempt to secure collegiate scholarships for area youth. The University of Wisconsin and Notre Dame have both approached Blue Island about making the Cal-Sag Channel their “home course,” requiring investment in supportive facilities.

Discussions with USRowing, Big Ten institutions, Notre Dame and the Chicago Rowing Group all indicate that the rowing community remains interested in competing on the Cal-Sag Channel. Having identified the Cal-Sag as an exceptional rowing course, this type of facility is positioned to make a long-term economic impact in the Calumet Region and improve the quality of life and community for area residents. While other rowing facilities in northeastern Illinois do enable some rowing uses – practices, private recreation, etc. – there appear to be few true centers for competitive rowing and large-scale training and practice facilities. To move forward, Blue Island and its partners must more fully understand the scale of the opportunity, how current assets stack up against possible competition, and then what level of investment and operational best practices are required to fully maximize possible benefits.

The State of Illinois’ Millennium Reserve initiative has provided renewed interest in a more robust, permanent rowing center and boat house at Fay’s Point (which has an existing marina and other assets to make it the priority site under consideration), to serve the needs of Blue Island itself, but also Chicago, the southern suburbs of Cook and Will counties, and northwestern Indiana. The Steering Committee of the Millennium Reserve initiative has identified the prospect of a regional competitive rowing center as a major priority, and in time that may enable the City of Blue Island to leverage substantial financial resources and other benefits of interjurisdictional partnerships. The Chicago Parks District has already indicated substantial interest in partnership. The Millennium Reserve is committed to improving the economy, community and environment of the region, and it is believed that this rowing endeavor can be central to that.

With the success of several past events, the City of Blue Island seeks qualifications and a priced proposal for assessment of the possible demand for and requirements of a permanent facility to host frequent, regularly-scheduled rowing regattas, support junior and high school rowing programs, house rowing clubs on-site, offer rental, storage, fitness and comfort amenities, and meet community needs for recreational opportunities and special events. The integration of the existing marina into the operations of the rowing center would also be desirable, as would a restaurant/bar/brewpub, if market demand and site constraints allow.

The work will be completed in cooperation with the City of Blue Island, an advisory group of Millennium Reserve Steering Committee members and other stakeholders (this group has already been assembled), and the Metropolitan Planning Council, which is serving as a strategic advisory to the City of Blue Island.

Your qualifications and proposal should address the following major work items:
1. Interviews and/or surveys with rowing and recreational experts in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana, rowing groups that have previously used Blue Island as a venue (this includes most of the Big Ten universities, as well as clubs from Notre Dame, Dartmouth, and George Washington University), area high schools and rowing clubs, and other stakeholders as the consultant, City of Blue Island, and advisory group deem fit. These interviews should seek to understand the needs of the interviewees, but also the possible range of benefits or costs to them of having an established rowing facility in Blue Island.

2. Review and assessment of current rowing facilities in the greater Chicago/Milwaukee/Gary metropolitan region to understand facilities, site constraints, programming, financing, and other pertinent issues. Identify potential competition for a Blue Island venue, and assess how Blue Island could invest to become a premier center for both infrequent, high level rowing competitions and more frequent use by the regional and local community. An inventory of national best practices in management, operational and communications practices in balancing competitive and community/recreational needs is also desired.

3. Interviews with potential financing and operational partners for the development of a rowing center in Blue Island, including but not limited to a range of possible private investors, the City of Chicago, City of Calumet Park, Village of Riverdale, Chicago Parks District, Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and area universities that may use this facility as a home site.

4. Preliminary assessment of demand for ancillary services that may be possible at the rowing center – dining, events, boat storage, a fitness center, etc. – as well as potential benefits to area businesses, in particular hotels, restaurants, and sporting goods stores, and opportunities to leverage benefits of adjacent amenities, such as Blue Island’s downtown, the Cal-Sag Trail, and Forest Preserve facilities.

5. An assessment of possible financing options for construction, as well as potential revenue streams to fund ongoing operations. Serious consideration should be given to a range of public-private partnership arrangements. Examples from other rowing or athletic facilities should be provided to support this assessment.

6. Based on that collected insight, provide a preliminary feasibility assessment of Fay’s Point, as well as two other locations in Blue Island to be determined by the consultant, City of Blue Island, and advisory group. This assessment should account for site feasibility depending on whether Blue Island and partners build small, mid-size, or large rowing facilities (based on foreseeable demand for rowing and ancillary services). This assessment should also account for access, safety, visibility along a future race course, existing development conditions, conflicting or complementary uses, effects of seasonality on possible revenue streams, land ownership, etc.

7. An assessment of potential opportunities for a rowing center to enhance the natural environment or be part of larger conservation initiatives, as well potentially detrimental consequences of such a facility and means to mitigate those consequences. Additionally, some foresight into how changing climate, precipitation and temperatures in the future could impact the operations or revenue stream of this facility.

8. Your own ideas on how to accomplish the task at hand.

9. Introductory, intermediate and final meetings with the City of Blue Island and advisory group. Introductory and final presentations to the City of Blue Island City Council. A final presentation to the Millennium Reserve Steering Committee.

10. A final report and recommended next steps toward implementation. It is envisioned that this initial assessment is only the first step toward site planning, facility planning, operational planning, engineering work, construction, and eventual operations.

1) Proposal Narrative: A proposal narrative explaining the general approach of the firm (or team), the overall strategy to be taken toward completion of the project, how each of the major work items listed above will be carried out, and any recommended changes in the project scope as presented in this RFP. Be sure to address project timing. Blue Island’s desired completion deadline is September 30, 2014. However, if in the informed opinion of the consultant a longer timeframe is necessary to complete a quality project, please propose a modified timeline.
2) Qualifications: Brief statement of qualifications together with appropriate supplemental information demonstrating qualifications of the firm (or team) and the key personnel identified to undertake the proposed project. Please indicate the numbers of years the firm (or team) and the key personnel have been involved in projects requiring a similar set of skills and expertise. Please provide descriptions of 2-3 comparable projects, and the eventual outcomes of those projects.
3) Project Budget/Cost Proposal: Submit a fixed-price cost proposal for the proposed consulting services, including, by major task, time and cost estimates for personnel as well as non- personnel costs.
4) References: List of references, including municipalities or other organizations with which the firm has accomplished similar projects.
5) Fee Schedule: Fee schedule for professional and support staff to be included in the project.
6) Contracts: Submit proposed professional services agreement, including relevant terms and conditions, and a statement of available insurance.

Please limit your submission to 20 pages. Addenda may include photographs, renderings, or other materials as necessary to support the application. The entire package must be less than 40 pages. Deadline for submission of your qualifications and proposal is 5 p.m. Central Standard Time, May 23, 2014. Please submit three hard copies and one electronic copy to:
City of Blue Island
Community Development Department
13051 Greenwood Avenue
Blue Island, IL 60406

Direct all responses and questions via email to: Jason Berry, Deputy Director of Planning & Building:

Background documents can be reviewed at