Pandemic will delay sports complex-related economic development

Machinery owned by Mid Illinois Concrete & Excavation does site work recently for the Rantoul sports complex to be built in west Rantoul. Company official Todd Modglin said the job "is going great except for the weather. We're happy to be a part of such an exciting project."

RANTOUL — Site preparation for the new Rantoul sports complex is progressing pretty much on schedule, but economic development surrounding the facility won’t be, Rantoul’s village administrator said.

Scott Eisenhauer told the village board last week that the COVID-19 pandemic will push back much of the development surrounding the sports complex this year.  

“At the time when this shelter in place began, we had a number of site visits set for the area by developers,” Eisenhauer said. “Those were put on hold until people can travel.”

The sports complex is expected to bring development such as new restaurants and hotels to town.

He said it is understandable that hotel developers would want to wait, saying the average hotel occupancy at present is 11 to 12 percent nationwide.

“So it’s difficult for those hoteliers to have discussions about five years from now,” he said.

He said he, Mayor Chuck Smith and Comptroller Pat Chamberlin reached out to the bonding authorities for the project to determine if there will be a problem because of the delay and said “we got very good news on that front that we’ll be discussing with our corporate counsel and with the board in the near future.”

He said an announcement will also be made regarding partnerships that have been reached with sports organizations.

“We have been able to use this time to work on our scheduling and work with sports organizations to try to attract them to schedule events at our facility,” he said. “That news will be very exciting next month when we bring forward those contracts.”

He said there have also been successful conversations with potential sponsors.

Site preparation had been set back by bad weather, but that practically caught up — at least until last week’s wet weather.  

Trustee Terry Workman said the travel sports industry isn’t as dormant nationwide as many might think.

“I can tell you that travel sports is going on,” Workman said. “It’s going to go this summer. It’s just not going to be in Illinois.”

He said several Rantoul residents have told him they have children on travel teams and plan to compete in tournaments in Tennessee, Kentucky and Missouri.

Workman said there should be no second thoughts about building the sports complex.