New academy campus to be dedicated

RANTOUL — The public will have an opportunity to view the new Lincoln’s Challenge Academy campus as part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony set for Saturday, June 16.

The noon ceremony will be followed by tours of the facility, located at 301 Dodge Ave. on the former grounds of Chanute Air Force Base.

The new campus consists of three buildings that house and support the academy — the education facility, an administrative building and fieldhouse.

The ceremony will include Maj. Gen. Richard Hayes, the adjutant general of the Illinois National Guard; LCA Director Peter T. Thomas; keynote speaker Maj. Gen. Donald Lynn; invited state executive and legislative representatives; and invited municipal leaders.

Demolition underway
The teardown of the old main building on the LCA campus began about three weeks ago.

Thomas said the demolition has been ongoing at a fast-and-furious pace. River City Construction crews continued the demo work Sunday, even during the day’s torrential downpours and lightning storm.

Thomas said he spoke with a River City official about the wisdom of working during an electrical storm.

“He said they have rubber strips on those (equipment) treads and they don’t worry about it as far as lightning,” Thomas said.

The Lincoln’s Challenge director said watching the old building come down is bittersweet but knows things must go on.

“As I tell the staff every week, ... ‘Out with the old and in with the new.’”

During demolition of several former Chanute buildings, including the mammoth White Hall, contractors have reported finding artwork of a bygone era. That has been the case during the Lincoln’s Challenge demolition. Artwork showing the “Black Widows” insignia was visible Monday along with the names of several personnel.

Thomas said Black Widows “is the name of a team that we had.”

“We had Lady Snipers and Black Widows, which was the female team.”

The demolition project is scheduled for completion at the end of July. The site will be turned into a parade ground.

Thomas would like to see more at the site as well.

“I’m trying to get the village and the Department of Military Affairs to put an amphitheater out there,” he said. “To me it would be a great thing because we could combine with the community” for events.

A commemorative marker listing the names of deceased Lincoln’s Challenge personnel located on the southwest corner of the site will be moved as well as an electronic sign, which will be shifted to the front of the new campus.

Using a military-style format, Lincoln’s Challenge Academy works with high school dropouts with a goal toward helping them achieve their high school equivalency (GED).

dhinton@rantoulpress.com

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