Leonhard Center nears opening day

Leonhard Center nears opening day

CHAMPAIGN — Want to have a gymnasium named after you? That'll be $125,000.

A track in your honor? A relative bargain at $75,000.

Act now, and you can even get your name on one of four new scoreboards for the low, low price of $5,000. Champaign Park District operators are standing by.

With opening day fast approaching at the $5.4 million Leonhard Recreation Center, a palatial new facility near Centennial High School, the park district is still seeking donors to help cover the costs.

Construction of the nearly 40,000-square foot facility has been paid for, but the park district is hoping to secure more donations — with naming rights thrown in — for "any additional equipment or amenities we may need after we open," said Laura Auteberry, the district's marketing and development director.

The center, located in Centennial Park, is scheduled for a soft opening on March 31, with the grand opening to follow April 12.

Champaign residents won't have to spend big bucks to use the sprawling facility, which includes an enormous gym, a track, cardio equipment, weight machines and meeting rooms. There is also a play area for children with an agricultural theme — barns and animals — to go with the nearby Prairie Farm mini-zoo.

A year's membership costs $70, or $5 for single-day use for city residents.

The center is nearly ready to move into. Workers spent this week putting floors — wooden ones — into the 18,000-square-foot gym.

"The old center had a gym with a concrete floor. The players will notice the difference right away," said Joe DeLuce, executive director of the park district.

Workers soon will be adding an ankle-friendly artificial surface to the suspended track, which will become the biggest in the area that's open to the general public.

Ten laps to the mile. With a good view of the basketball and volleyball action.

Built in 1976, the old Leonhard Center at 2212 Sangamon Drive has a leaky roof and lacks air-conditioning.

"It got up to 115 degrees in the gym in the summer," DeLuce said.

The fate of the older building is uncertain. Auteberry said razing the center is under consideration but the district has sent out requests for proposals.

"We don't want anything in there that's going to compete with what we're doing," DeLuce said.

A motion to award a lease of the old building to a batting cage business came up at Thursday's park district board meeting, but was tabled until March because the agenda was full, Auteberry said.

Replacing the old center with a state-of-the-art new one has long been on the park district's wish list. The new Leonhard Center has been in the works since 2008.

DeLuce said funding the building did not require raising property taxes because the district had cash in reserve from decades of well-maintained older buildings.

There was also a lot of outside help.

The district received $2.5 million from the Park and Recreational Facility Construction Grant Program through the state.

A $34,997 grant, care of the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, helped pay for the low-cost geothermal heating and cooling system.

Though other efforts were made to keep the building sustainable and friendly to the environment, it is not LEED-certified, DeLuce said.

The new Leonhard Center meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards — and second floor restroom facilities have been added to the original plans.

Among the amenities at the Champaign Park District's new Leonhard Recreation Center:

Two full-sized basketball courts.

Four volleyball courts.

A walking track with 10 laps to the mile.

Four activity rooms.

A 1,350-square foot indoor playground.


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Sid Saltfork wrote on February 15, 2014 at 11:02 am

A $2.5 million grant from the State of Illinois when it is supposedly broke; and yet there is an annual fee for citizens to use the facility?  I can understand a membership fee for the Y.M.C.A. since it is not state funded.  Well... $70 bucks a year is not much; and it will keep the riff-raff out.

SirArms wrote on February 15, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Is this fee of $70.00 per year for an individual?

So what  is the family yearly price?