RANTOUL — Rick Judge pointed a temperature gauge at the surface of the Wabash Park courts next to J.W. Eater Junior High School.
The temperature was almost there — almost to the necessary 135 degrees to progress with the next phase of the installation work, which involved installing the rest of the fabric seam.
Judge, of All-Weather Courts of Dawson, said his crew would be on the job one more day before leaving for another job elsewhere in the state. After originally expecting to return next week, the crew was back at it in Rantoul Monday and finished Wednesday.
After finished, the court will have to sit for a day before being ready for use. The gate to the courts was chained and locked Thursday.
It’s like that in his business. There are deadlines, weather forecasts and other options to consider for a number of jobs.
The new Rantoul Park District multi-use courts will include two combination tennis-volleyball courts and four pickleball courts.
Judge said there have been a number of pickleball players who have stopped by to check on the status of the work.
“It’s the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.,” Judge said.
One attraction of pickleball over, say, tennis, is the smaller court. Many seniors prefer the game because there isn’t as much running. Still, Judge said, there have been several younger people out inquiring about the status of the work.
Judge and crew were working on the premier court — or the mats — portion of the project. A colored coating will be installed on top.
Gary Hardin, president of the Rantoul Park District Board, said the new courts are expected to be an improvement over the old ones that have not lasted long after being resurfaced in recent years. There’s a reason for that.
Hardin said the All-Weather Courts crew found the footings to be only about 18 inches deep. The freeze line is 36 inches.
The crew poured a bell-shaped footing 42 inches deep “so you don’t get that cracking,” Hardin said.
The crew also filled all the existing cracks and leveled the courts.
The new court will also have to be painted and the posts re-installed.
There is a 25-year guarantee against cracking with the new courts.
The all-weather courts are state of the art — at least in this area.
“Champaign Park District came up, and they’re interested in it now,” Hardin said. “We’ve got the first one of its kind with this new surface.”
He said Monticello officials have also called him, expressing interest in the courts.
Hardin said the closest all-weather courts are in Decatur and Bloomington-Normal.
Total cost of the project is estimated at $150,000, with $120,000 of that to be paid for with bonds to be repaid over four years.
Rantoul City Schools will provide $30,000, and Rotary International has pledged $2,520 each at the local and district levels for the project.
Three courts to the south of the new multi-use courts might be used for another purpose. Hardin said Rantoul City Schools district officials have expressed interest in converting that area into parking or some other use.
Three other courts to the north were converted into a skate park several years ago.