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Proposed state budget includes $40 million National Guard facility for Peoria

Illinois National Guard

Governor JB Pritzker's proposed state budgetfor fiscal year 2025 includes a $40 million project to create a new Army National Guard "readiness center" in Peoria.

Lieutenant Colonel Brad Leighton is the Illinois National Guard Director of Public Affairs. He says a "readiness center" is essentially just an updated term for "armory."

The new facility will replace three aging buildings on the Peoria International Airport campus where the National Guard currently stores helicopters.

"The buildings that are there now are 50 years old," said Leighton. "We've got an old heating system. Some of the sides are crumbling. Their roof is giving away. So we're still operating in those buildings, but they don't have a lot of lifetime left."

The new facilities will train troops, store aviation assets and provide a backup command center for the National Guard.

Leighton says Peoria is in a critically important area for the National Guard and could function as headquarters during an emergency in Springfield.

"It's in the central part of the state," he said. "So we can respond quickly from Peoria, either up to an emergency in Chicago, or downstate, or there in Central Illinois."

The governor's proposed budget sets aside $20 million in state funds for the project, with the additional $20 million to come from "pay-as-you-go" funds. These funds come from spending cuts elsewhere or other sources of tax revenue.

Leighton says, if the project is included in the final approved budget, planning will take two years and construction roughly three. The earliest the facility could be finished is 2029 or 2030.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.