Work on 2-story, 39,000-square-foot center set to begin in a few weeks
CHAMPAIGN — Construction of a new Leonhard Recreation Center should be underway in a matter of weeks after the park board on Wednesday night approved a $5.3 million contract to move forward with the project.
The new center will be two floors totaling 39,000 square feet with two basketball courts, four volleyball courts, three activity rooms, an indoor playground and an indoor track, according to park district Executive Director Bobbie Herakovich. The new facility will enable the district to expand its volleyball programs and provide a good place for walkers when the weather is not cooperating.
It should open sometime early next year, Herakovich said.
"It's a pretty exciting time for us after all the planning that went in to the new Leonhard Recreation Center," she said.
The work will be done by the low bidder, Champaign contractor Dodds Co., whose president is former longtime park board member Newt Dodds. He did not seek re-election to the board this spring after 38 years as a commissioner.
The new facility will be paid for in part by a $2.5 million state grant, and a $35,000 Illinois Clean Energy grant will cover the cost of the building's geothermal ventilation system. The remainder will be covered by tax revenue the district has set aside.
The project has expanded in both size and cost since park officials first applied for the grant they got in September 2011. The proposed facility ballooned from 24,300 to 39,000 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 requires a minimum 25 percent local match. In this case, that means the park district needed to contribute at least $625,000 of its own money to the project. Instead of contributing the minimum, the cost to the Champaign Park District could reach $3 million.
Herakovich has said it's a good use of park district money — the new building will replace the 35-year-old facility which park district officials say was falling apart. The new structure should last 50 years or more, she said.
One of the features Herakovich said users might be most appreciative of is air conditioning. She said the old center could get up to 105 degrees inside on hot days.
"That's our biggest excitement about it is we're getting air conditioning," she said.
Residents will have the option to participate in the "Buy a Brick" program and have their name or the name of someone else engraved into a paver to be placed near the entrance.
The playground on the site right now will soon be relocated to near the Rotary pavilion across from Sholem Aquatic Center "in a nicely shaded area," Herakovich said.