Pregame sports

Rain showers – like the ones that hit Piatt County the week of Aug. 19 – should not be a problem for Pregame Sports or owners Samantha and Chris Basak, who aim to provide 27,000-square-feet of indoor sports training space for Monticello area athletes. The Basaks are seen here posing in a rain shower across the street from their proposed building site, located just east of Monticello Middle School.

As the City of Monticello tries to figure out how to build outdoor recreation fields on the west edge of town, a former University of Illinois baseball standout wants to take care of indoor training for local athletes with a 27,000-square-foot complex on the east side.

The city planning and zoning board approved the first step – recommending a rezoning of 3.23 acres of land that Chris and Samantha Basak want to annex into Monticello – on Aug. 19. The city council will consider final approval on Sept. 9, along with a final plat and annexation.

“The whole goal with Pregame Sports is to create an indoor training facility that will provide an environment that encourages the kids to be healthy and active through sports and physical activity,” said Chris Basak, who followed his U of I career by playing professional baseball, which included a handful of games with the New York Yankees.

He added the focus will be on complementing existing youth programs in the community.

“We want to create a space that the local organizations can utilize to run their programs,” said Basak, who now lives in White Heath. “Some examples of that would be the Monticello youth travel baseball and softball, the Monticello rec department, soccer, Monticello school district and Kids Club wrestling.”

If approved, Monticello Gymnastics plans to move from its downtown location into Pregame Sports, according to City Community Development Director Callie Jo McFarland.

“We support the project 100 percent,” said Monticello School Superintendent Vic Zimmerman of the business that would be located right next to the middle school. “This is the type of community asset that is needed in Monticello. The bottom line is the school is supportive of the zoning change for the privately funded community asset, and we will continue to encourage the city to move forward with other community assets.”

Zimmerman added his support for the city's continued efforts to develop 30 acres of land into an outdoor recreation complex.

Audience member Steve Shreffler also supported the Pregame Sports proposal, but felt similar private investment was a better option than city-developed park land.

“This is the type of development we need in Monticello as opposed to draining $10 million for a park complex. Everything works better when it's done in the private sector,” he told the planning and zoning board.

Rezoning of the Pregame Sports site, which is contingent upon annexation being approved, is needed to accommodate a business there, said McFarland.

“State statute says that anything that comes into the city limits automatically comes in at the most restrictive zoning. That's urban residential, which is not appropriate for this particular development, or any new development,” she said.

Basak said the business plans to have an indoor turf surface and nets for batting cages, a party room, and cardio machines for parents who are waiting on their kids to get done with practice and camps.

He said it is also in a good location, since the middle school is a hub for school bus traffic.

PZB board member Amber Goebel asked if there were plans to include a path between the school and Pregame Sports.

“We are definitely looking at ways to make it easy for them,” said Basak.

A parking lot with a capacity for 54 vehicles is also part of the business plan.