Official start of construction of the new Villa Grove Community Center | Policy

VILLA GROVE — Periodic flooding in the city necessitated the demolition of the town’s old community center.

The flood of problems stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed construction of a replacement facility, not to mention rising prices.

With all of these issues in the rearview mirror, the grand opening of a new community center is scheduled for 10 a.m. today in Richman Park.

“We originally applied for a grant for the building in 2014,” Villa Grove administrator Jacki Athey said. “The community center building on Main Street had been there for decades.”

Athey said the village began looking for ways to replace the building with one that was not in the floodplain.

The original building was built by the school district and sold to the city when an addition was added to the school building.

The old community center went unused for several years as the city looked for options to replace it.

A $2.1 million grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources will pay for part of the more than $6 million project.

“Part of the problem was that the grant agreement was signed two weeks before the pandemic, which delayed it,” Athey said. “We had to get an extension with the price of materials rising rapidly.”

This meant that a project that the city said could cost between $4 million and $5 million could end up costing a few million dollars more.

Athey said city officials need to decide how much money to spend on the project before deciding to fund the rest. Fundraising and sponsorships raised approximately $200,000 to help cover costs with “some verbal commitments not yet made”.

“We hope that during the process the costs will come down,” she said. “I know inflation is crazy right now. At each stage, we will assess whether there are ways to save.

Foundation work has begun and Athey said construction could be completed by next summer.

Athey said the community is looking forward to the new center.

The city received dozens of letters of support from the public during the grant process.

“We are thrilled,” she said. “It has been a long time.”

The building will include a 350-person gymnasium with a walking track above. There will be a mezzanine for other activities.

The gymnasium will be equipped with two half-courts that will host volleyball, basketball and other sports.

There will be a concession stand and a full kitchen that will be available for rent. The concession stand and restrooms will also service the entire adjacent sports complex.

Since the closure of the old community center, activities have been moved elsewhere. Many went to the United Methodist Church gymnasium, including recreation teams and senior walkers.

“They opened it up and allowed the community to use it,” Athey said. “Obviously they have their own priorities and needs” and they don’t want this to continue to replace the community center indefinitely.

The school district also allowed community use of its facilities. Construction of a school gymnasium and four new classrooms was completed last year.

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