Village seeks to develop sports complex

The area in green would be the location of a sports complex that the village of Rantoul hopes to develop. The site is south of the Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center, east of U.S. 45 and west of Enterprise Drive.

RANTOUL — Development of an upgraded Bill Seeber Sports Complex to host traveling youth teams could be in the future for the former grounds of Chanute Air Force Base.

The village of Rantoul will publish a request seeking proposals and submission of qualifications for a master plan design for the 35-acre project. Proposals will be received until 3 p.m. June 20.

Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said determination of the cost of the project would be included in the project’s first phase. The village might seek Open Space Land Acquisition and Development or other grants for the project.

The sports complex development would be located in the area south of the Hap Parker Family Aquatic Center, east of U.S. 45 and west of Enterprise Drive. Potential upgrades could include conversion of athletic field spaces to artificial turf, additional sports field lighting, Americans with Disabilities Act access, parking lot improvements and multi-use trail extension.

It would include baseball and softball fields, football, soccer, lacrosse and possibly other sports facilities.

The area has been used for sports over the years, with some of the property being the site for Camp Rantoul — the University of Illinois fall football training facility until Illini coach Lovie Smith moved those practices to Champaign. Soccer, youth baseball, high school football camps, Ultimate Frisbee, Falcon football and Midwest Prep Academy football have also used the fields.

The fields “would be designed not only to host local teams, but also to host regional and national tournaments, summer camps and special events,” Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said.

The goal of the project would be to enhance economic development through sports tourism — “offering a unique complex designed for hosting events small to large, local to national,” Eisenhauer said.

He said the idea stemmed from discussions in the Rantoul Tomorrow program and was further discussed during village board goal sessions at which the sports complex “was the highest priority.”

“It’s easy to see where youth sports are today, there is a huge emphasis being placed on travel sports,” Eisenhauer said.

He said the proximity to interstates 57 and 74 makes Rantoul a good location for a sports complex.

“We’d be in a great location to attract a lot of regional, but even some national, youth sporting events here,” Eisenhauer said.

He said the design phase would likely take most of the summer. An August projection was included in the project timeline. Village officials would then meet with private partnerships in the fall and winter “and then see how close we can get in private dollars and see if it’s something we can move forward.”

Ideally, Eisenhauer said, construction would start in the spring of 2020.

Eisenhauer said a local committee would likely be set up to work with the design team.

When the village “gets something we want, we’ll run some numbers, and we’ll have to figure out what we think is realistic in private dollars.”

The proposal would then be brought to the village board and the community.