SPRINGFIELD – Politicians pushing state sponsorship of a vast entertainment mall in Glen Carbon promise to protect Illinois stores from cannibalization, but Springfield itself lies outside their protection zone.

Under a bill that would pay for University Town Center with sales tax revenue, retailers with stores in Springfield could open big stores as top attractions at the mall.

The bill prohibits the mall from opening a "destination store" if the owner operates an Illinois store within 70 miles, and Springfield lies just beyond the limit.

So do Marion, Carbondale, Effingham, and Decatur, all retail magnets.

The bill would protect Mount Vernon, barely, and about half of Jacksonville.

The bill defines destination store as one costing at least $30 million and occupying at least 150,000 square feet.

Under the bill, Glen Carbon would issue hundreds of millions in bonds to build an entertainment venue, destination stores, and regular stores.

Developers would retain sales taxes from the entertainment venue and the destination stores, to pay off the bonds.

The development group includes John Costello, son of Congressman Jerry Costello from Belleville.

Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne of Belleville introduced the bill as an amendment to an unrelated House bill.

Rep. Thomas Holbrook of Belleville introduced it as an amendment to an unrelated Senate bill.

Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago said on March 11 that she withdrew as cosponsor of the Senate bill.

She said the bill originally dealt with community mental health.

She said it would be inappropriate to continue as a sponsor of mall legislation.

"I'm not sure I'm supporting it," she said.

Other legislators that have dropped sponsorship of the bill are Rep. Naomi Jakobsson (D-Champaign), Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Sycamore) and Sen. Pamela Althoff (R-Crystal Lake).

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