RANTOUL - The artificial turf on which Robert Holcombe set Illini rushing records could soon see new life inside an old Air Force hangar.
Rantoul Aviation and Economic Development Director Reed Berger told the village's Economic Development Commission on Monday that village officials have begun examining the old Memorial Stadium Astroturf to see if it is in good enough condition to be used for athletic events and trade shows.
After work crews removed the turf from Memorial Stadium in 2001, they rolled it up and trucked it to the former Chanute Air Force Base, where it has been sitting in a corner of Hangar Two.
While the Air Force used the old hangar as a sports arena, village economic officials had been working to attract an aviation-related business to the hangar since acquiring the building from the Pentagon in 1994.
Berger told commission members on Monday that his department has given up on finding an aviation-related use for the hangar.
?We are looking at the feasibility of housing a multievent building there,? Berger said.
Rantoul Recreation Department Director Rich Thomas said the building could house everything from winter soccer tournaments and softball camps to trade shows and hunting and fishing shows.
?There's a big demand for that sort of thing here in East Central Illinois, and I think we have the space to provide it,? Thomas said. Thomas said he has enough Astroturf to cover the entire floor of the hangar and more.
Thomas said his staff has begun evaluating the condition of the rolled up Astroturf to find out whether it is still suitable for athletic uses.
?The turf is really stiff and damp in this cold weather, so it's difficult for us to unroll it,? Thomas said. ?We did manage to unroll a piece of the end zone. They had painted the word ?Illinois' over the end zone so many times that there wasn't much grass left there. We may have to wait until spring for the turf to thaw out enough for us to check a larger portion.?
According to Thomas, an early evaluation indicated that the grassy top portion of the turf is still in good shape.
?What we won't know until spring is the condition of the foam base below the grass,? Thomas said.
Having an Astroturf surface wouldn't hinder trade shows, according to Thomas.
?You could put the trade show right on top of the turf,? he said. ?Walking on it feels just like carpeting.?
Rantoul Village Administrator Gary Adams said his staff would need to develop a full plan for the hangar's use and get that plan approved by the village board before conversion work could begin.
If the hangar doesn't become an events center, Berger said, the only other likely possibility would be converting it to warehouse space.