VILLA GROVE — The city’s periodic floods necessitated the demolition of the town’s former community center.
The flood of problems stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic delayed construction of a replacement facility — not to mention driving up the price.
With all those problems in the rear-view mirror, groundbreaking for a new community center is set for 10 am today at 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 was here for decades.”
Athey said the village began looking for ways to replace the building with one that was not in the flood plain.
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 was not used for several years while the city searched for options to replace it.
A $2.1 million Illinois Department of Natural Resources grant will pay part of the more than $6 million project.
“Part of the problem was 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 going up fast.”
That meant a project the city thought might cost $4 million to $5 million might end up costing a couple million dollars more.
Athey said city officials have to decide how much cash it will put toward the project before opting to finance the rest. Fundraising and sponsorships have secured about $200,000 to help defray the cost with “some verbal commitments that haven’t come in yet.”
“We’re hoping during the process that the costs will come down,” she said. “I know inflation is crazy right now. At every stage, we will assess if there are ways to save.”
Foundation work has started, and Athey said the construction could be finished 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’re excited,” she said. “It’s been a long time.”
The building will include a gym that holds 350 people with a walking track above. There will be a mezzanine for other activities.
The gym will be equipped with two half courts that will accommodate volleyball, basketball and other sports.
There will be a concession stand and full kitchen that will be available for rental. The concession stand and restrooms will also serve the entire adjacent sports complex.
Since the closure of the old community center, activities have been moved elsewhere. Many have gone to the United Methodist Church gym, including rec teams and senior walkers.
“They opened it up and allowed the community to use that,” Athey said. “Obviously they have their own priorities and needs” and don’t want it to continue as a replacement for the community center forever.
The school district also allowed its facilities for community use. The school gym construction and four new classroom were completed last year.