RANTOUL — People can’t wait to use the new Rantoul sports complex, whether they’re supposed to or not.
Village officials had to warn people via Facebook not to trespass on the grounds.
The prospect of playing football on one of the new lined and numbered turf fields, complete with goal posts, was too much for a group to resist recently. They arranged a pickup game.
“There was a full-scale football game with about 12 people per side,” Village Administrator Scott Eisenhauer said. “We want people to use it, but not yet.”
He said the sports complex grounds have too many holes, open utilities and other hazards and are not ready for the general public.
Next year whenever there are no scheduled events going on there, “we want them to use it,” Eisenhauer said.
Work is progressing steadily on the new $20 million-plus facility on Rantoul’s west side near Interstate 57.
“Roads are going down, buildings are going up, turf is going down, fences, dugouts and backstops are going up,” Eisenhauer said. “So right now, every aspect of construction is occurring. And lights are going up.”
“The lights are incredible,” Eisenhauer added, saying the village is likely to have a lighting ceremony when the project is officially opened next year.
Another thing that’s going on: bookings for the site.
Last weekend, organizers for two softball events and a football event reached an agreement to use the complex.
“We really want to kind of hype up ... football,” Eisenhauer said. “The softball’s great, too, because it fills up every field from April to October.”
He said a group from Chicago is relocating a football tournament to Rantoul.
Ryan Reed, director of sports operations, is working to fill the multi-purpose fields, Eisenhauer said.
The complex will also host events for soccer, lacrosse, hopefully rugby and quidditch, a fictional sport from the Harry Potter franchise.
“Part of what we’re trying to do is find other unique ways to use the space in addition to the events we have thought (of holding) all along,” Eisenhauer said.
The complex will have two football fields, one of which is finished, the other of which is waiting to be turfed. Those fields are also lined for soccer.
Eisenhauer said construction is on schedule. Village officials didn’t know if that would be possible when work fell behind due to an inhospitable year, weather-wise and otherwise.
“The work crews have been phenomenal, including some of our own employees,” Eisenhauer said.
The complex is expected to boost restaurant and hotel business locally. Construction of a new Taco Bell restaurant is nearly complete. Other eateries are expected to follow suit. Development in those areas was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nearby, an entertainment facility featuring miniature golf, arcade, snack bar and second-story patio where people can watch the games will be constructed. A seven-person group has bought 3 acres for the project, including room for expansion.