After a wet early summer, work on sports complex starting to catch up

Equipment moves dirt around on Thursday at the Rantoul Family Sports Complex. Dust was prevalent due to the lack of rain in recent weeks.

RANTOUL — A lot of equipment in the form of large trucks, earth moving, hauling and scraping equipment is rumbling around during construction at the Rantoul Family Sports Complex in west Rantoul.

The place has its own “traffic cop” of sorts — an employee who tells which vehicles should go and which should yield.

It’s a small city out there, at least in terms of traffic.

Meantime, Rantoul Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said the increased interest among prospective businesses locating next to the complex site has been significant.

Assistant Rec Director Andy Graham gave a visitor a tour of the site Thursday afternoon, providing a glimpse of just how big this sports complex is going to be. Sixty-five acres is just a number. But to see it in person gives a different perspective.

“It’s a whirlwind,” Rantoul Recreation Director Luke Humphrey said.

A whirlwind with a lot of dust. At least it was late last week as the lack of recent rain was evident by the billowing dust clouds.

Ironically, the work got behind and is catching up because of a wet early summer.

Humphrey said a rain gauge at the site got a workout, recording about 30 inches of rain since February.  

Three guys

Village of Rantoul public works employees, Wade Blankenship (background), Zeno Stinnett (middle) and Austin Shreves work on installing electrical service at the Rantoul Family Sports Complex last week.

“It seemed like every weekend for a month we were getting inches upon inches of rain,” Humphrey said. “We can catch up in a hurry.”

Humphrey said it is difficult to predict a completion date.

“In the overall perspective, if we have a decent winter, we’ll certainly catch up,” he said.

Humphrey said general contractor Byrne and Jones is doing “a lot field work” at the site.

“They’re laying the concrete curb for the soccer fields.”

Cross Construction is laying the base layer for the roads and parking lots.

Stark Construction, meanwhile, is working on storm sewers and sanitary.

The village public works department has been installing the primary electric that will serve the complex as well as the surrounding economic development.

Sign guy

The sports complex ‘traffic cop’ uses his ‘stop’ and ‘slow’ sign to regulate traffic the site's traffic, which is heavy. It’s like a small city.

Grading around the lake and backfilling around the fields is Mid Illinois Concrete, while Overlander Electric is beginning the underground electric installation.

“We are coordinating all the different trades at one time,” Humphrey said. “It is full bore at this point. As long as the weather holds out, we should remain on schedule.”

Humphrey said he is learning a great deal in the process and joked: “I’m going to be an engineer and an attorney by the time this is over with. It’s definitely a learning experience. I’m certainly proud to be a part of the project.”

Business interest

The village board has already approved a local investor group’s plans to build a miniature golf/arcade facility near the site. Eisenhauer said there has been a “huge uptick in interest” in other businesses locating nearby.

“The number of people who are reaching out number probably five to six a week,” he said. “They are in different stages of interest and readiness.”

Some projects are far enough along that land will be purchased and final deals will be made with property owners.

“I can think of four to five projects that are at that stage right now,” Eisenhauer said. “There are some that are in the due-diligence stage — eight or nine of them.”

He said some have reached out “with levels of interest” but have not yet started an evaluation process.

Eisenhauer said he anticipates groundbreaking on some of the projects before the snow flies “and a significant amount of activity in the spring of next year.”

“I’m very enthused by the amount of interest that we’re getting right now,” Eisenhauer said, “and the variety of interest that we’re getting.”

It’s not all hotels and restaurants either, he said, noting there are some “very exciting projects.”

The COVID-19 pandemic pushed many projects back. Much of the construction the village had hoped to see in the fall will happen in the spring.

Knights Inn progress

A prime piece of real estate that would benefit from the sports complex is the condemned Knights Inn property at the intersection of U.S. 136 and Murray Road. But an asbestos study done by the village of Rantoul did not bring good news. The study found it will cost between $200,000 and $300,000 to remove asbestos from the property.

“That has changed some of the thinking of some potential buyers of that property,”  Eisenhauer said.

There is still a great deal of interest in the site, “but I think people are reworking their financial picture,” he said.