University's project is first step toward a $44 million student recreation center.

Construction is to begin soon on a $2.5 sports complex on the former Illinois State University farm.

On Friday, the ISU board of trustees approved the project on land north of Gregory Street and west of the ISU golf course in Normal.

"We are relocating the tennis courts, currently on University Street, to the Gregory Street property and moving some of the intramural fields that are already out there. It is a shift of existing facilities," ISU spokesman Jay Groves said.

The project is the first step toward construction of a $44 million, 170,000-square foot student recreation center near the university quad.

The Gregory Street project, expected to be complete next June, will use 30 acres on the southern edge of the Gregory Street property to accommodate 12 tennis courts, three fields for softball, rugby and soccer, a 100-space parking lot and an environmentally friendly water runoff management system.

In 2001, ISU moved the university farm to Lexington, leaving an unused piece of land roughly three times the size of the school’s quad, Groves said.

"It’s a huge amount of space. We haven’t made many decisions for that space yet. This is a long-term planning process. It will be slowly developed over the next 40 to 50 years," Groves said.

The development of the former university farmland will make way for a new student recreation center, expected to open in 2010, Groves said.

ISU officials plan to unveil recreation center plans to the trustees at their October meeting.

Groves said plans are to take out the tennis courts on University Street on the main campus and demolish Dunn-Barton and Walker residence halls. That will enable ISU to start construction on the recreation facility, academic space for the school of kinesiology and recreation and a 500-space parking deck to serve the buildings.

"We have a student recreation facility now, but it is several blocks from campus, and of course students would rather have it right on campus."

The new facility will replace the recreation center on Willow and Beech streets. The kinesiology school will move from Turner Hall.

Groves said while the Gregory Street sports facilities will be several blocks away from the quad, ISU’s free Redbird shuttle service will take students to and from the main campus.

The $2.5 million project uses $1 million from bonds approved by the board of trustees in February. About $1.2 million will come from athletics and recreation facility reserves from student fees, and $312,000 will come from parking system reserves.

Reach Journal Star reporter Fitzgerald M. Doubet at (309) 686-3041 or state@pjstar.com.