RANTOUL — The still-under construction and yet-to-open Rantoul Family Sports Complex is already aiming high.
Even before a softball game can take place at the $20 million facility scheduled to open on the west side of Rantoul by the end of March 2021.
The village has submitted a bid to host the IHSA softball state tournament, Rantoul Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer told The News-Gazette on Thursday.
“We will learn our fate on that endeavor this fall,” Eisenhauer said.
The IHSA state softball tournament for all classes has taken place at EastSide Centre in East Peoria since 2001. The current contract the IHSA has with the East SideCentre is set to expire in 2020.
Yet Rantoul is hoping to lure the event away from its long-time home with the promise of a new complex situated right alongside Interstate 57 that will feature eight turf fields for a variety of sports. Three of those fields are set to be equipped to handle softball games, with one described as a “championship softball field.”
EastSide Centre has multiple softball fields at its complex, but only uses one diamond for its state tournament games and none of its field feature a turf playing surface, an aspect Eisenhauer is touting.
“With our facility being an all-synthetic turf surface, it will greatly reduce concerns about rain-outs or long delays following a rain event,” Eisenhauer said.
“We believe we have a high-quality facility in a community and county which is very supportive of high school athletics. We know eventually we will have hotels adjacent to the complex, which will be a benefit to teams and their fans.”
The village worked in conjunction with Visit Champaign County on putting together its bid, with discussions between the two entities starting last fall. Champaign is set to host three IHSA state tournaments during the 2020-21 school year — eight football state title games at Memorial Stadium in late November, the three-class state wrestling meet in February at State Farm Center and the four-class boys’ basketball state tournament in March at State Farm Center — but Visit Champaign County CEO Jayne DeLuce said her organization wanted to go after a girls’ sport.
“We’ve been working on it actively,” DeLuce said. “Softball seemed like a wonderful bid, and Rantoul was willing to go after it. We submitted the bid together with their input. We’re supportive of not only what the complex field will be, but also the videoboard and the amenities that they’ll have there.”
A splash pad is among the proposed items included in the plans for the Rantoul Family Sports Complex, along with a playground and 800-plus parking spaces. Future expansion of hotels, retail establishments, restaurants and other economic development items are part of the village’s 10-year plan when it comes to the complex, according to Eisenhauer.
Getting the chance to become host of the IHSA state softball tournament would add to not only the complex’s appeal, Eisenhauer said, but also help the village in other areas.
“There would certainly be an economic benefit to hosting the tournament through food, sales, lodging fuel and entertainment dollars spent,” Eisenhauer said, “but the real benefit is the pride in having Rantoul identified statewide as a championship host for such a prestigious organization.”