RANTOUL — Another tourist draw is set to open this fall in Rantoul that will bring thousands of people to the community — this time on the east side of town.
People have flocked to Rantoul this summer as fans and players of baseball, softball, soccer and other events head to the new Rantoul Family Sports Complex near Interstate 57. Now many more will be coming for motocross racing at what its developer said will be the largest indoor amateur motocross facility in the country.
Chad Dalton of St. Joseph said he is creating the motocross track in the 218,000-square-foot Hangar 3 on the grounds of the former Chanute Air Force Base. The track will be designed by SSR Training Facility of Bowling Green, Ind.
It is set to open for training after Thanksgiving, with the first races being held in 2022.
Dalton has motocross racing in his blood. So does his son, Tristan. Chad Dalton said that spurred the decision to start the Rantoul facility.
“I grew up racing motocross,” he said. “My son’s been racing since he was 4 years old. Now he’s 14.”
The Dalton family has traveled throughout the country to attend events — from California to Pennsylvania and Florida. Now, they will have many others coming to Rantoul.
The new facility, which is under construction, will be open for private lessons and training during the day and for riding Monday through Thursday evenings. An amateur supercross series will be held on weekends from mid-November to mid-March beginning next year.
“We will train all ages, all levels of competition or skill levels from beginners to full-time racers,” Dalton said. “There’s going to be people showing up from all over the country to this place, especially during the winter. There’s nowhere to ride around here unless you go down south.”
The motocross track will span 60,000 square feet. A smaller 30,000-square-foot track will be built in the lower bay area for younger competitors.
Motocross racing is for all ages. Dalton said people as old as 60 compete.
A BMX track for bicycle racing might be built in the future.
Motocross is motorcycle racing over rough terrain, and tracks have to be 1 to 3 miles long with various obstacles. No two courses are alike, and motocross racing takes a great deal of physical and mental training.
Each heat of a race takes less than 40 minutes. A full race generally lasts less than two hours. Many courses have hills, jumps and sharp turns.
BMX racing is a type of off-road bicycle racing and was derived from motocross racing.
Dalton said work on the facility to date has primarily dealt with demolition of old air handlers that no longer work. New natural-gas heaters and lighting will be installed.
“As far as new construction, we haven’t done anything with that yet,” Dalton said. “We’re just making room and working with the village on getting permitting.”
He said motocross racing is “extremely family-oriented.”
“When you go to these big races, there’s 500 to 600 riders. It’s going to bring a lot of people to Rantoul,” he said. “It will be designed for all skill levels with multiple turns and table-top jumps.”
The dirt for the track is coming from that left over after construction of the Rantoul Family Sports Complex.
“That’s pretty cool that Rantoul is able to help build this facility and they just so happen to have two mounds of dirt there to be used on the track,” Dalton said.
Advantage Trucking and Mid-Illinois Concrete “have been a huge help in getting the dirt over here,” he said.
Aladdin Electric helped with lighting for the project.
Dalton said he started eyeing the venture in 2017, but it didn’t pan out at that time. He said Rantoul has “been extremely supportive of this.”
Discounts will be offered for riders who are military veterans.
“There’s a lot of dirt-bike guys who were in the military,” he said.
The track will leave only one of the four hangars on the former Air Force base not in full-time use. Hangar 1 is used for a hemp-growing operation, while Hangar 2 is home to manufacturer Maverick Pipe, which bought it from the village for $225,000.
Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said the village will be receiving about $11,000 a month from the leases for hangars 1 and 3.
Hangar 4 is also being leased and is still being toured by interested tenants. Eisenhauer said the village does not have other plans for the building “other than to maintain and lease it, unless someone expresses an interest” in buying it.
Eisenhauer said the motocross track will be “another great tourism draw for Rantoul, and particularly along Route 45, Maplewood (Drive) and Century (Boulevard), where this facility will generate 150 to 400 participants a weekend plus family and friends.”
“We are very excited about bringing a new, untapped market to the community and think this will continue to provide confidence in developers to build all over the village, knowing there will be thousands visiting Rantoul every weekend all year round,” he said.