RANTOUL — The village’s attention is turning to land acquisition after the village board Tuesday night unanimously approved construction of a $20 million artificial-turf sports complex.
The vote was greeted by applause from a nearly full board room.
The complex — which will seek to draw traveling teams for competition from a 400-mile radius, as well as be open to local youth and adult players — is expected to greatly energize economic development in the northern Champaign County community. It will border Interstate 57 on the community’s west side.
Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said he expects a verbal agreement to be reached to buy the 60 acres for the site from the Joe Warner estate “in 10 to 15 days.”
“We’re very close,” Eisenhauer said. “They have sent us a proposal, and we have crafted a counter proposal that we will send them now that this has been approved.”
The board approved a $16.5 million contract with Byrne and Jones to construct the major portion of the sports complex. Another estimated $4 million to $7 million will be spent with local contractors to do the remainder of the work and for purchase of the land, Eisenhauer said.
Eisenhauer said negotiations with Kristi Pflugmacher, operating on behalf of the Warner family, “have been very, very positive. She is a tremendous supporter of the project and of the community. I think she sees the benefit it will be for the community.”
Rantoul officials reportedly have been fielding a call a day from potential developers of hotels, restaurants and retail establishments inquiring about possibly building near the site since the village announced its proposal in September.
Eisenhauer said the agreement will allow Byrne and Jones to begin working on engineering for the project, which will include multiple fields for softball, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and football.
Crops on the site must be harvested. Recreation Department Director Luke Humphrey said Pflugmacher indicated that that work could be completed in two weeks.
Humphrey was credited by many village officials for his work on the project.
“It’s been nonstop since the first of the year, since Administrator Eisenhauer said go, so we went,” Humphrey said.
Former village Trustee Chad Smith, addressing the board before the vote, said the sports complex would be the most significant economic opportunity for the village since the days when Chanute Air Force Base was open.