Ribfest Not Coming to Frontier Sports Complex in Naperville

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The organizers behind Ribfest are looking for a new home in Naperville, but a proposal to set up shop at Frontier Sports Complex on the city’s south side did not pick up enough support from the Naperville Park District to make it happen. During Thursday’s board meeting, officials decided not to bring the popular festival back to town.

What’s At Issue?

Several commissioners said they do not believe Ribfest belongs in Frontier Sports Complex, though it is the largest space in the district’s park system. It is already home to a variety of programs and activities during the summer months.

If Ribfest was staged at Frontier Sports Complex, the park district would have to restrict public access to allow for the event’s setup and takedown, officials said.

“We know that just based on past history with the event at Knoch Park that after the event, it can take upwards of four weeks after the event to restore some of the areas based on the impact to the turf,” said Brad Wilson, the district’s director of recreation and facilities.

Wilson said they stand to lose about $90,000 if it hosts Ribfest in the summer of 2022.

Location Matters

Still, event organizers are proposing to stage a two-day festival in Naperville. Ribfest typically takes place over four days.

The Exchange Club of Naperville does not have an agreement in place to host Ribfest in Romeoville, despite announcing plans to relocate there two years ago. The event is currently on a hiatus after canceling plans for the second year in a row because of the pandemic.

Beverly Schafman of the Exchange Club of Naperville emphasized that the group is a Naperville-based organization and the location of the event matters.

“I just really think we belong here,” Schafman said.

Philanthropic Track Record

The Exchange Club of Naperville would like the 2022 festival, wherever it may be located, to raise between $450,000 and $500,000 to benefit charities.

Several commissioners noted that Ribfest has good intentions, but they are not sure at what cost they are willing to pay to accommodate the festival considering the potential impacts to the community.

“I’ve worked [the event] many years and charity work is great,” Commissioner Josh McBroom said. “I have trouble with potential revenue loss of our programming especially because after what we’ve been through and could be going through again.”

Board Vice President Mary Gibson echoed that sentiment.

“The charitable work is impressive and their donations are really important to a lot of organizations,” Gibson said. “I’m appreciative of that. I recognize it, but I have to look at this from the lens and responsibility of a park commissioner. … I just think it would really hamper our ability to fulfill our mission [to] provide the services and programs.”

McBroom and Commissioner Rich Janor were among those suggesting that some of the proceeds from Ribfest should go to the park district.

Gibson and Commissioner Rhonda Ansier expressed optimism that if the Exchange Club of Naperville presented another proposal with a different location the board may consider it.

Moving Forward

Ultimately, the board expressed concern that Ribfest conflicted with the park district’s mission to provide “recreation and park experiences that promote healthy lives, healthy minds and a healthy community,” according to a press release.

The board, however, is open to other proposals that may include a different location, possible agreement to share funding and efforts to gauge community interest.

Board President Marie Todd said that if the Exchange Club of Naperville made another pitch, the park board may give it consideration.

Naperville News 17’s Megann Horstead reports.

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