Updated: July 13, 2014 2:16AM
A shout-out from Gov. Pat Quinn’s office has drawn attention to a developing project along the Calumet Sag Channel in Blue Island.
Building on the success of rowing events in years past, Blue Island officials are examining the feasibility of building a rowing center to serve Division I collegiate competition and expanding an existing marina along the shipping canal.
A report from Quinn’s office on the Millennium Reserve project named Blue Island’s proposed Intercollegiate Rowing Center and Marina as a high priority. The Millennium Reserve initiative stretches from south of Lake Shore Drive through Chicago’s South Side into the Southland.
The project is intended to help boost projects that foster economic growth, restore the environment and promote healthy communities within a 210-square mile area. It also will expand green space in the Chicago area by 140,000 acres.
Mayor Domingo Vargas believes the proposed projects will spur the local economy and continue a trend he has seen in recent years of the city becoming a “destination place.”
In 2007 and 2008, Blue Island hosted several rowing competitions, including the Cochrane Cup and the Southland Regatta. The Cal-Sag Channel also was used for rowing during the 1959 Pan American Games.
“We’ve wanted to try and find a way to make (such events) more sustainable … and create an economic opportunity for the entire Southland region,” said Jason Berry, Blue Island’s deputy director of planning and building.
Berry said the city is studying the feasibility of the rowing center and marina expansion through a grant from the Chicago Community Trust. Until that’s done, the city won’t know the demand, how large the facilities should be and how much they would cost, he said.
Blue Island’s privately owned marina has 88 boat slips on Fay’s Point, a peninsula that juts into the Cal-Sag Channel. The city is looking to purchase the marina from developer Mack Cos.
Within the marina, a new boathouse would serve a range of functions, such as storage, meeting space or possibly a restaurant, city officials said.
By next year, Blue Island’s portion of the 26-mile Cal-Sag Trail will be complete and will run through the marina. The trail, now under construction, will run from Illinois 83 near Lemont to the Burnham Greenway near the Indiana border
“I think it’s really important to show people that these waterways are an asset,” Berry said.