Monticello sports facility

Pregame Sports owners Samantha and Chris Basak aim to provide 27,000 square feet of indoor sports training space for Monticello athletes.

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MONTICELLO — As the city tries to figure out how to build outdoor recreation fields on the west edge of town, a former Illini baseball standout wants to take care of indoor training for local athletes with a 27,000-square-foot complex on the east side of Monticello.

This week, the city planning and zoning board approved the first step — recommending a rezoning of 3.23 acres of land that Chis and Samantha Basak want to annex into Monticello. The city council will consider final approval on Sept. 9.

“The whole goal with Pregame Sports is to create an indoor training facility that will provide an environment that encourages the kids to be healthy and active through sports and physical activity,” said Chris Basak, a sixth-round draft pick in 2000 who went on to play in five games in the major leagues, all with the 2007 New York Yankees.

Basak said the focus will be on complementing existing youth programs in the community.

“We want to create a space that the local organizations can utilize to run their programs,” said Basak, who lives in White Heath.

“Some examples of that would be the Monticello youth travel baseball and softball, the Monticello rec department, soccer, Monticello school district and Kids Club wrestling.”

If approved, Monticello Gymnastics plans to move from its downtown location into Pregame Sports, according to city community development director Callie Jo McFarland.

“We support the project 100 percent,” Monticello schools Superintendent Vic Zimmerman said of the business that would be located right next to the middle school. “This is the type of community asset that is needed in Monticello.”

Zimmerman added his support for the city’s continued efforts to develop 30 acres of land into an outdoor recreation complex.

Rezoning of the Pregame Sports site, which is contingent upon annexation being approved, is needed to accommodate a business there, McFarland said.

“State statute says that anything that comes into the city limits automatically comes in at the most restrictive zoning. That’s urban residential, which is not appropriate for this particular development, or any new development,” she said.

Basak said the business plans to have an indoor turf surface and nets for batting cages, a party room and cardio machines for parents who are waiting for their kids to get done with practice and camps.

He said it is also in a good location, since the middle school is a hub for school bus traffic.

Zoning board member Amber Goebel asked if there were plans to include a path between the school and Pregame Sports.

“We are definitely looking at ways to make it easy for them,” Basak said.

Steve Hoffman is editor of the Piatt County Journal-Republican, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit journal-republican.com.