CHAMPAIGN — The final portion of Champaign Central’s massive renovation project is beginning to take shape, even though ground won’t be broken on what the district is calling the North Fields until 2022.

Earlier this month, the district released a video meant to replace the community feedback sessions held in pre-COVID-19 days for the projects. The video was meant to solicit that same feedback on what will be the final major portion of the renovations at Champaign Central and Centennial.

“The end is in sight, down the road a ways,” Unit 4 capital projects manager Mark Roessler said.

Plenty has to be done before ground is broken and turf is laid for the soccer and softball fields to be placed north of the school across Church Street. The church that the Champaign Central band is currently using in place of its band room and marching band field will eventually be demolished. Lynn Street will be closed on that lot to create a contiguous 4-acre lot.

Right now, the site of the old YMCA is merely a staging location for construction equipment for the rest of the project.

On the actual building, a steel structure is beginning to rise to form the second major addition to the school after the field house was finished this fall. In order to do that, a large portion of the existing building had to be demolished. Erecting the entire steel frame, Roessler said, will take a few months.

“We’re finally getting some structure out of the ground, so we’ve been working on the demolition for a long time,” Roessler said. “That took awhile, getting some of the underground foundations in. We’re beginning to see some of the skeleton of the buildings come up. ... People can finally notice it as they drive through.”

Roessler said that, in the small time in-person school was in session, the district did see improvements to the traffic patterns because of new pickup and drop-off locations in back of the school, where two staff parking lots were built.

The effects of the five-year project are beginning to be felt as the renovated school and re-formed lots begin to take shape. The end may be in sight, but plenty of work remains.

“We feel like with the heavy duty crunch time we’re at the peak or just past it,” Roessler said.

Anthony Zilis

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