Champaign moves forward on replacing Leonhard Center

CHAMPAIGN — With a $2.5 million state grant in hand, park officials now have a conceptual design for a facility that will replace the worn-out Leonhard Recreation Center and are continuing to move toward a late-fall groundbreaking.

The project has expanded in both size and cost since park officials first applied for the grant they received in September. The proposed facility has ballooned from 24,300 to 38,140 square feet, and park officials now plan on going well beyond the required local matching funds for the grant.

The grant from the state's Park and Recreation Construction program, or PARC, requires a minimum 25 percent local match. In this case, that means the park district needs to contribute at least $625,000 of its own money to the project.

But as proposed, the new Leonhard Rec Center would cost $5 million — a $2.5 million cost to the local district.

That's what it will cost to build two basketball courts, four volleyball courts, a three-lane track, four multipurpose rooms, an indoor play area and other various spaces.

And it is a good use of the district's money, Executive Director Bobbie Herakovich said.

"Our facilities are outdated," Herakovich said. "And this will allow us to provide more services to residents."

The 34-year-old Leonhard Rec Center has a leaky roof and is without air conditioning. Park officials have been thinking about the project for a while but were somewhat surprised when they were awarded the state grant last year.

Park officials believe they can come up with the dollars without a tax increase. Herakovich said the park district has gone through a few "austere" budget years and has the money thanks to previous years' lowered spending and, in some cases, staff reductions.

The new facility is planned to be built at the corner of Sangamon Drive and Kenwood Road, on part of the Centennial Park property and across the street from the current recreation center. The project also includes an expansion of the parking lot to the north of the Centennial Park pool.

The old rec center will be knocked down, and park officials will come up with a new plan for that site, Herakovich said.

The new facility will address increasing demand for team sports, Herakovich said, particularly the increased interest in volleyball.

A contractor will work on the technical details of the plan between park board members' approval this week of the conceptual design and their approval of a final design.

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Sid Saltfork wrote on May 25, 2012 at 9:05 am

Isn't the State of Illinois broke?  Only yesterday, the elderly's prescription assistance program was cut.  Medicaid was cut also.  So the State of Illinois is not broke?  Where is the "shared pain"?

readone wrote on May 25, 2012 at 1:05 pm

Let's see, the state is broke and programs have to be cut but they have 2.5 million for a recreation building?  Not only that but the park district has 2.5 million just sitting there waiting for a project?  That is ridiculous.

ronaldo wrote on May 25, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Sorry, but that is one butt-ugly design.  Seriously, it would be a C project in a sophomore design studio on a good day.  How did that get approved by the Park Board???