RANTOUL — Average Joes and others could get their dodgeball and three-on-three basketball fix with expanded programs offered through Rantoul Rec Department.

Additional programs and more  space will make for more Rec Department options.

Rec officials Todd Brooks and Andy Graham discussed the programming at a recent meeting of the Rantoul Exchange Club.

Brooks said people are interested in adult dodgeball, but they are really interested in three-on-three basketball.

He said he has spoken with some Chicago-area rec officials who offer dodgeball.

“They sent me their rules and such. I’m just trying to find a good time of the year and time of the week to have it,” he said.

Interest level ranges from age 16 to “40s and 50s,” he said.

“In Chicago they have six on a team,” Brooks said. “There’s a possibility of having a 10-team league. We

could knock out one night night a week.”

An eight- to 10-week schedule would be held. Two games could be played at a time in the gymnasium.

He said he has found some “no-sting” dodge balls online.

For three-on-three basketball, Brooks said Ryan Parker, an assistant on the Rantoul Township High School boys basketball team, has expressed interest in helping.

“The interest in (three-on-three) is overwhelming,” Brooks said. “Ryan said we could have four games at a time. We could do four halfcourt games. The goal is to knock this out over one night a week.”

There has also been interest in a kickball league. Paxton has one, and Rantoul could hold games at the new sports complex when it is finished in 2021.

“I have had people who play in the Paxton league ask me about it,” Brooks said.

Forum grant

More programming will be available as a result of the planned Forum Fitness Center expansion.

Graham, the rec department’s assistant director, said he is excited about the $850,000 expansion. The project will get underway several years later than originally expected. The state announced grant money would be forthcoming for the expansion/renovation project in 2014, but the money was frozen by Gov. Bruce Rauner after he was elected over incumbent Patrick Quinn. The state recently announced Rantoul would, finally, be receiving the money. Rantoul will contribute $100,000 toward the project.

Graham said the project will be a multipurpose facility that will allow expanded offerings. He said Forum space is tight now.

The 3,000-square-foot addition will be built on The Forum’s west side. It will double the size of the cardio room, increase the size of the weight room and add a new HVAC system.

Graham bragged on Brooks, saying the new hire (he started in March) has been a valuable addition. One thing Brooks has done is to show people how to use the exercise equipment at The Forum

“It’s always discouraging when you go in a fitness facility and you really don’t know what to do or you go in the first day and say, ‘I’m going to eat healthy, going to run, work out,’ and the next morning you have to roll out (of bed) because you’re sore,” Graham said.

Brooks, he said, is good at setting up workouts for people regardless of their fitness ability.

Brooks is fitness and aquatic supervisor for the department and oversees adult recreation and assists with youth sports.

New cardio room

He said one of his first roles was to give The Forum a bit of a facelift. He took equipment that wasn’t being used and created a new cardio room in one of the unused racquetball courts. He brought in additional flooring to the weight room and bought equipment to reduce wear and tear on the floors.

Brooks said since March, there have been almost 35,000 check-ins to The Forum.

“I’m happy with that number,” he said. “I think in the future when we expand ... that number can increase.”

Brooks said in adult rec, women’s volleyball is ongoing with 11 teams — six competitive and five recreational, which is up from nine total last year.

A co-rec softball league of eight teams that lasted seven weeks that was played on a former base field ended recently.

He said the final games were played when it was snowing. Brooks said some people even tailgated before the games, and a food truck began coming around.

For the swimming pool, 47 lifeguards were hired, 21 of whom were new. Brooks said he flew in from Atlanta one of his former lifeguards, who certified the guards over a two-day period.

The Hurricanes swim team had 59 members. The team finished second in the conference meet.

Just under 300 children signed up for swim lessons in four time slots.  

A total of about 18,000 people used the swimming pool. Had the weather cooperated, he believes that total could have reached 20,000.

Graham oversees the youth center. He said former J.W. Eater teacher Margurette Carter continues to oversee an after-school academic program there.

“The kids ... realize Margurette means business when she talks,” Graham said. “We make every kid in the building sit from 3 to 3:30. If they don’t have homework, she has stuff for them.”

He said Carter works closely with the parents, who have been receptive. Graham said they have seen improvement in the students’ academics and behavior.

He said more than 200 youngsters are signed up for basketball, which will kick off after Thanksgiving. Games will be played every Saturday morning at The Forum and the Youth Center.

Another construction project will take place at Rudzinski Park. Graham said engineering is about finished for that project, which will likely go to the village board in January.

The park will be moved west across the street from the current park. The project will add an outdoor fitness circuit, parking and other amenities.

As for the $20 million sports complex in west Rantoul, Graham said the village is in the process of “finishing up the land deal” with the Warner family.

A March 2021 target has been set to open the complex.

He said the wood shop is still “going good” in the recreation building.

It is open two nights a week and Saturday mornings for $5 per session or a woodworking club membership of $55 per year.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com