By Kelly Youngblood
A new splash pad will be opening soon in Rantoul, just in time to provide families with a new spot for some summer fun.
Located in the middle of the newly developed Rantoul Sports Complex, right next to a brand new playground that was completed in March, the splash pad includes 12 sports-themed water features. The layout is similar to Hessel Park in Champaign.
The splash pad officially opens to the public this weekend with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, May 29, at 1 p.m. The ceremony will include remarks from state, county and local officials. The splash pad will be turned on and children’s activities will be held.
Local residents are really looking forward to having a new place to take the kids this summer.
“We already have a nice aquatic center and as a mom myself, I know how nice it will be to have another water option in Rantoul,” said Amanda Vickery, Executive Director of the Rantoul Area Chamber of Commerce.
“The splash pad and playground at the sports complex will be an awesome addition to some already great parks that we have,” she added.
Ryan Reid, Director of Sports Operations for the Rantoul Sports Complex, has been working to develop and implement plans for the complex since the beginning.
Reid says the main focus of the multi-million dollar project was not only to bring in tourism money to Champaign County but also to help improve the quality of life for the people that live in the community.
“It’s largely for the community to come in and use as they please. If you want to come out here and enjoy the concessions area or the playground, kick a soccer ball or play catch, you are welcome to do so,” Reid said.
The 70-acre sports tourism facility is the largest of its kind south of Interstate 80, says Reid, and the only one in the state that has 18 synthetic turf fields that serve soccer, football, baseball and softball.
Another component that will likely bring in more visitors to the complex and the area is the construction of a new veterans memorial.
Reid says they are also planning to host movies in the park for families to enjoy this summer.
“It will be close to the playground and splash pad. People can come on a Friday and enjoy the splash pad and watch a movie,” he said.
Reid sees the Rantoul Sports Complex as a huge asset to the community. “It’s something that we’re pretty proud of up here. I think really it’s that first piece of development that is going to put Rantoul back on the county map.”
Vickery agrees and says the development of the Rantoul Family Sports Complex is “changing the culture of Rantoul entirely.”
“Since the Air Force base closed in 1994 business owners have experienced a decline in tourism in Rantoul. Because of the RFSC, that is quickly changing,” she said. “Current businesses are now expanding and we will be getting many new businesses to help support the influx of tourists coming to town.”
Vickery added: “The morale in Rantoul for business owners and residents hasn’t been this high in over 20 years and we are happy to announce that this is Rantoul’s time to shine.”