RANTOUL — Interest by tournament organizers in booking Rantoul’s new sports complex has been greater than anticipated, Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said.

Meantime, a contract is projected to be finalized for village purchase of the land where the complex will be built.

The village has been in talks with sports organizations interested in scheduling events at the facility, which is projected for completion in March 2021, Eisenhauer said.

“Just based on what has been requested, we have more than filled every weekend that we had originally suggested we would have and then some,” Eisenhauer said of the first year.

While noting that nothing has been finalized, Eisenhauer said, “If there was concern about interest from sports organizations hosting events at the complex,” it’s not a concern any longer.

Eisenhauer said the level of interest has surprised him.

“I felt we would have some success there (this early), but I have been overwhelmed by the number of organizations that have expressed such a strong interest,” he said.

The $20 million artificial turf complex will be built to draw traveling, and local, teams to play softball, baseball, football, lacrosse and other sports in Rantoul. Organizers estimate the complex will bring teams from up to a four-hour radius, including the Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis areas.

It is expected to boost the local economy with the building of additional restaurants, hotels and retail establishments.

Eisenhauer said negotiations with the Warner family, which owns the property in west Rantoul, have gone “very well,” and a deal should be finalized soon.

Kristi Pflugmacher, spokesperson for the Warner family, agreed, saying everything is “going well” with negotiations.

“We’re just working on some final little details,” she said.

Land sale proposal

Eisenhauer said the plan is to meet in closed session with the village board at its Dec. 3 study session, and when trustees are comfortable with the proposal, it will be made public prior to the regular monthly board meeting the following week.

The sports complex will sit on a 60-acre parcel south of Rantoul Walmart.

The village board last month signed a $16.5 million contract with St. Louis-based contractor Byrne and Jones to construct the major portion of the complex. Another estimated $4 million to $7 million will be spent with local contractors to do the remainder of the work and for purchase of the land, Eisenhauer said earlier.

Pflugmacher said she has been meeting with businesses interested in locating near the site. Nothing will be finalized and announced until after the land purchase agreement is settled.

At least 40 acres is available near the site for development, Eisenhauer said.

Core samples have already been taken on the grounds, but no soil will be moved until the purchase is complete. Most of the site work will take place in 2020.

The village hopes to fund about 25 percent of the project from private contributions, sponsorships, donations and grants, which Eisenhauer said has gone well.

The bulk of the funding will come from bonds paid for from income generated through the village’s tax-increment financing fund.

dhinton@rantoulpress.com