The Rockford area has long been known as a destination for amateur sports tourism in Illinois and throughout the Midwest. The area's Sportscore Complexes (one in Rockford, one in Loves Park) feature numerous playing fields for baseball, softball, soccer and other sports, and have been host to local, state and national tournaments since Sportscore One opened on the banks of the Rock River in 1983.

But as the level of competition rises among amateur sports teams, so does the competition among cities wanting to host tournaments. In recent years, the Rockford area has seen a decrease in the number of tournaments hosted there — and a resultant decrease in tourism dollars — blamed partially on this increased competition. But plans are in the works to reverse that trend.

Reclaiming First is the brainchild of a committee comprising officials from the Rockford Park District, city and county governments, and other organizations to make the Rockford area the premiere destination for amateur sports tournaments in the Midwest. The plan would not only improve the existing Sportscore Complexes but also create a new multi-sport, indoor facility by converting the former Ingersoll building along the riverfront.

"If we can improve our facilities, that will make Rockford and the state of Illinois more competitive when it comes to sports industry tourism," said Illinois State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Loves Park), who has introduced a bill that would allow Winnebago County to increase its tax on hotel stays. It's estimated that this tax, which would be levied on out-of-town visitors, will generate $13 million for Reclaiming First.

"(Rockford) residents will not have to pay this tax, but they will enjoy the benefits of these improved facilities," Stadelman said, adding that Reclaiming First will help the state as well.

"Money that's not spent in Rockford will be spent outside the state," he said. "Anything we can do to encourage people to come to the state of Illinois and the Rockford area will improve our financial situation."