Village to get state grant to improve, expand Forum Fitness Center

Rantoul Rec Director Luke Humphrey, left, shows Mayor Chuck Smith where a 3,000-square-foot addition would be built on the west side of Forum Fitness Center. The village of Rantoul is due to receive a $750,000 state grant for work on the center.

RANTOUL — The village has seen this movie before. This time, maybe the ending will be different.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker last week announced Rantoul would receive a $750,000 Illinois Department of Natural Resources grant for the renovation and expansion of Forum Fitness Center.

Rantoul would contribute $100,000 to the project.

Recreation Director Luke Humphrey won’t breathe easy until the money is in the bank.

He said the village has been informed of a Notice of State Award. He doesn’t know when the funding will be forthcoming.

The money will be used to install new windows and double doors and to build a 3,000-square-foot group fitness addition on the west side of the building.

Interior work will include installation of drop ceilings, flooring and new electrical services in the cardio room. A new HVAC system will be installed for the gymnasium and the lockerrooms.

Humphrey said the installation of new doors and windows will improve the building’s aesthetics and “make the place more inviting.”

The 3,000-square-foot addition will allow for more programming for all ages.

“Initially it will provide an extra space for the wrestling program,” Humphrey said, “but it will also allow us to expand our group fitness classes and provide a meeting space for any organizations that need it.”

He said the additions will make what is a “tremendous asset to the community” even better.

“You don’t find a building like that in many small towns,” he said. “To be able to supplement the current building with more square footage ... is really a huge thing.”

The Air Force deeded The Forum to the community following the closure of Chanute Air Force Base.

Rantoul thought it had the funds for the project back in 2014 when Gov. Patrick Quinn announced the money would be forthcoming. But when Gov. Bruce Rauner came into office, he froze the money.

Humphrey announced to the village board in November 2018 that the frozen grant money might be coming Rantoul’s way after all.

It’s taken a year for a formal state announcement to be made.

“We were awarded it, but we never got a grant number; we never got the funding,” Humphrey said then.

After the money did not come Rantoul’s way in 2014, the Rec Department made a few renovations on its own. They included the installation of three sets of tempered glass doors to replace steel ones to bring in more natural light in the gymnasium and weight room.

Also, lights have been replaced in the gym, new lockers were added in the men’s and women’s locker rooms and the men’s and women’s steam rooms were renovated.

The village is also awaiting word on two other grant applications submitted to the state — both for Heritage Lake. One is a boat area access grant, and the other is an open space land acquisition and development grant.