RANTOUL — “This will be the No. 1 baseball complex in the state of Illinois. Period. End of sentence. Undisputed.”
That’s the opinion of Rich Janor, president of GameDay USA, speaking at last week’s village board study session.
GameDay is one of two tournament organizers that have signed five-year contracts with the village of Rantoul to organize baseball and softball games at the Rantoul sports complex that is due to open in 2021.
Recreation Department Director Luke Humphrey said the contracts include 22 weekends booked plus 24 two-day weekday showcases.
Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said in June and July of next year, only eight and five days, respectively, will not hold some kind of baseball or softball tournament.
The other contract is with Rock Tournaments. Joe Alivo, president of the company, said Rock hosts baseball tournaments in a number of regions of the country — providing various events, include high school exposure showcases for athletes looking to play at the next level.
Eisenhauer also announced Rantoul has put in a bid with the Illinois High School Association to host the 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A high school softball championships. He said IHSA officials are scheduled to visit the complex site later this month with a decision coming in the fall.
The sports complex filled much of a lengthy village board study session last week that also included requests to approve state-of-the-art video scoreboards, a splashpad and playground and a $500,000 loan request for a local group to build a miniature golf-arcade facility at the sports complex.
The board was scheduled to vote on the proposals at July 14 meeting. Trustees were asked to approve a $560,267 contract with Watchfire for scoreboards.
Humphrey said original plans were to provide regular nine-inning scoreboards similar to those used at Wabash Park diamonds.
“But to make this top notch, we were going to need to stand out,” Humphrey said. “We need to have video boards.”
Originally, $350,000 was budgeted for scoreboards. The video boards exceed that amount by more than $200,000, but the village will be able to recoup the difference through advertising.
Mayor Chuck Smith said when he walked into the conference room at the municipal building, where a presentation was being made on the video boards, “It was lit up. I thought I was at Wrigley Field.”
Included are a 20-foot-by-25-foot video board on the baseball championship field and a 15-by-20 board on the softball championship field. A portable 9 by 15 video board that can be mounted on a flatbed trailer can be moved to the lacrosse and soccer fields or even to the airport or Wabash Park — “even downtown,” Humphrey said.
Six other fields will have standard scoreboards.
Sponsorships for two of the video boards are also pending for $250,000.
Trustee Terry Workman said he has been to many traveling tournaments, and the video boards are going to be a selling point.
“When you put a kid’s video on a video board and his stats, he’s going to want to come back every weekend,” Workman said.
Watchfire will also provide a sponsorship message center to be placed at the complex entrance.
Splashpad and playground
Team Reil will provide a splashpad and sports-themed playground at the complex for $434,476.
They will provide an entertainment attraction for youngsters accompanying their families to the tournaments.
“It makes it another destination location that we feel is important,” Humphrey said.
Wifi and cameras
Insight Public Sector will be contracted to provide a Cisco/Meraki fiber system for a security camera and wifi system at the complex for $410,186.
Humphrey said he originally envisioned a bare-minimum wifi system for the buildings.
“I learned in today’s age and age ... we needed to wifi the entire place,” he said.
To provide adequate security, a complex camera system will be installed.
Insight has provided similar networks at Wrigley Field, the Tennesee Titans stadium and Baltimore Ravens stadium.
The system will allow fans to watch their children/grandchildren play via the internet if they are playing out of state.
The village will contract with Corson Music to provide audio for the complex for $100,000.
Humphrey said a sound system is needed that not only can play music or announce a game but also to be overriden in the event the entire complex needs to hear a safety message such as the approach of bad weather.
The board was also asked to approve a $216,000 engineering agreement with MSA Professional Services to design sanitary improvements for a gravity interceptor sewer from the sports complex, proposed lift station just west of the Canadian National Railroad and proposed force main crossing under the existing railroad track and U.S. 45, east to an existing 18-inch sanitary sewer. Total cost of the Stone Bridge Center Service Area project is anticipated to be $2.645 million.
Mini golf-arcade entertainment complex
In a related sports complex development, the board also heard a presentation from local residents Travis and Nikki Flesner on behalf of a seven-person investor group requesting a $500,000 EDA loan at zero percent interest to build a miniature golf-arcade-snack area just north of the sports complex.