Naperville officials are proceeding cautiously as they set guidelines for the staging of mixed martial arts events in the city.
City Council members had the first reading Tuesday of a proposal to restrict the events to daytime hours and to forbid the sale of alcohol at the hosting venues.
The issue came under scrutiny recently, after promoters requested access to vacant city-owned property near Quincy Avenue and Fort Hill Drive, hoping to use the lot for overflow parking during an event they were planning at Players Indoor Sports. When the council declined to grant the permission, the organizers cancelled the event, which was expected to draw 2,000 spectators to the Oct. 19 fights.
At least one city resident wants to discourage any rescheduling of the fight-focused matches. Todd Peterson, who said he handled security for an MMA event in Indiana in recent months, implored the council to forbid the events.
“It is not a sport. It is not entertainment,” said Peterson, reporting that the first bout at the Indiana event lasted 12 seconds and culminated in a trip to the hospital, the first of three transports out of the seven fights that evening. “Not unusual, not unusual.”
Using an overhead projection system in the council chambers, Peterson displayed the close-up image of a bloodied fighter and cautioned that the outcome sometimes is much worse.
“People sustain serious, serious damage in these fights. If you think football players get concussed, this is 100 times worse,” he said.
Council members, who will vote on the ordinance amendment at an upcoming meeting, were receptive to Peterson’s comments, but they didn’t vow to prohibit the fights. Councilman Bob Fieseler said he is “concerned about the potential for trouble” for participants, and also for the required public safety personnel who would be on hand at the venues, but would not be inclined to completely ban the events.