RANTOUL — Bibles, podiums and hymnals will replace shoulder pads, footballs and wrestling equipment at the building that at one time housed the Camp Rantoul locker room.
The village of Rantoul is selling the building at 1221 Enterprise Drive to Rantoul United Pentecostal Church to convert to its church building.
The church has been renting a building at 410 Cuppernell Ave. on the former Chanute Air Force Base from the village. Church officials were notified by the village that they should start looking for a new home because of a pending possible economic development project.
The building was also used most recently by Midwest Prep — a football academy — and for such uses as wrestling.
Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said the village is not ready to announce what the economic development is, and noted it is not the University of Illinois Automated and Connected Track project that is also pending on the former base.
If Camp Rantoul or Midwest Prep football operations ever return to Rantoul, they won’t be using the locker room facility on Enterprise Drive.
The church will buy the former building, which sits directly east of the fields that had been used for several years by the University of Illinois for Camp Rantoul and later by Midwest Prep Academy, which recently moved its operations to northern Illinois.
Purchase price for the 10,500-square-foot metal building that sits on 3.75 acres is $250,000.
Airport Manager Eric Vences said the church will renovate the building.
“They have requested a closing cost credit in the amount of $200,000 to offset costs of renovation to the building,” Vences said.
Eisenhauer said the church broached the idea of receiving credits because the move to the new building “is an investment they were not intending to make.” He said the $200,000 “is the estimate the church made to renovate the property.”
The actual cost credit will be based on the documented amount it takes to renovate the building. Eisenhauer said it might be less than $200,000.
“Their goal was to stay right where they are,” Eisenhauer said.
“Recognizing they were not preparing for moving and rebuilding, (Mayor Chuck Smith) wanted to take into consideration the overall cost of the project.”
He said the current church building is in a locale at the prospective site “of another development project that we are currently in the process of developing.”
The Rev. Christopher King, pastor of the church, estimated it was February when village officials notified the church of the need to move.
He said the church has been at its current site for 23 years. With the move, the church will go from a building of about 20,000 square feet to one about half the size — but King said that shouldn’t be a problem.
“The older building has a lot of hallways and excess rooms that we really didn’t use,” King said. “I think the building is going to be suitable for us if everything goes through. It’s a nice building. We’d hate to see it go to waste.”
He said church attendance averages 115 to 120 people.
Former Rantoul Rec Department Superintendent Rich Thomas estimated the locker room building was constructed in the early part of this decade, about the time former Illini head coach Tim Beckman took the reins.
When the village of Rantoul took ownership of the building that preceded it, it had been used as a sports equipment rental business.
“The first time I was in that building, it had old sports equipment — fishing gear, horseshoes, baseball equipment, kayaks,” Thomas said.
The equipment was cleaned out and sold, and the building was renovated.
“The old building was in bad shape,” Thomas said. “It had termite damage, and it had been patched and repatched, and we sided it, and we were going to have to roof it.”
He estimated it cost the village between $200,000 and $250,000 to put up the present structure, which he said was a smart move.
The former building didn’t have lockers, just chairs and hooks for football attire for more than 100 players.
He said former head coaches Ron Turner and Ron Zook didn’t care about the old building’s condition. They loved being in Rantoul for camp, he said. It is not known if Beckman asked for a new building to be constructed.
The locker room building had also been most recently used by teams visiting for wrestling and high school football camps.
The village is in the process of seeking bids for the potential development of a sports complex near the site. Eisenhauer said if the U of I or Midwest Prep indicate they want to return to Rantoul, another facility could possibly be constructed.