As Core Elite Tumble and Cheer continues to build its business, the gym that plays host to competitive cheerleading squads from across southern Illinois plans to move locations — from a building that formerly housed one of Highland’s landmark manufacturers and into another.
Core Elite is currently located in Highland School District Administration Building, located at 400 Broadway, which was once home to Jakel Manufacturing.
Core Elite began seven years ago with just 80 students. It now sees between 650 and 750 students per session, but there has been as many as 950 enrolled at in a single session, according to company president Jennifer Ostander, and there’s five sessions per year.
They come from across the region — Vandalia, Carlyle, Mascoutah, Nashville. Only about 1/3 of Core Elite’s clientele is from Highland.
Ostrander said her business “maxed out every inch of space” in its current location, which necessitated finding a bigger site.
On Tuesday, Aug. 22, Ostrander and her husband, Frank, inked a deal to buy the former Wicks Organ Co. factory, located at 1100 Fifth St. in Highland. The move will give Core Elite an extra 68,000 square feet to work with.
“We are looking forward to expanding and finally owning our own facility, and building up some equity into our business,” said Ostrander, who hopes to be relocated by June 1, 2018.
Ostrander said the acquisition was contingent on the Highland City Council approving the rezoning of the Wicks factory from industrial to commercial “highway business.” The council approved the zoning change at its meeting on Aug. 21. The paper work to complete the deal was signed on the next morning, Ostrander said, adding the company will now be making steps toward remodeling.
“A huge undertaking”
In addition to accommodating their own business, the Ostranders will also be leasing space in the Wicks factory to Innovative Movements, a dance studio in Highland, and are planning to turn another part of the factory into a venue for weddings and other events.
“This is a huge undertaking,” she said.
Scott Wick, the president of Wicks Organ, said his company has relocated its operation across the street into the Wicks Aircraft building at 416 Pine St.
However, Wicks Organ will still have a presence in the old factory building. The Ostranders will be leasing a room to the 111-year-old pipe organ maker to use as a showroom. Ostrander also said they are considering creating a small museum dedicated to Wicks and want to incorporate Wicks memorabilia throughout the building.
“That is kind of neat, and it will let people know there is a lot of history there,” Wick said.
Ostrander said they are trying to tackle renovations of the eight-acre property in four phases, the first of which will focus on getting space ready for Core Elite and iMoves.
“We’ll have lots of elbow grease and time to invest,” Ostrander said.
Core Elite’s new cheer space will have two full sets of mats, including a 42-by-52-foot spring floor and dead mat. This section will also include something Core Elite has not had before, according to Ostander, a “basket toss room” with a 44-foot ceiling for practicing more advanced skills and throws. Along with the extra practice space, Core Elite will be adding a parent lobby with live feed televisions, a snack stand and pro shop.
The rest of the renovation plan calls for three large venue spaces with different themes. There will be gazebo area for outdoor weddings, a rustic-themed “chicken-and-beer dance” hall, and a formal venue with tall vaulted ceilings, two bar areas and a cocktail reception area. There will also be a chapel inside the factory and separate suites for the bridal and groom parties.
The venues will have a common catering kitchen. Core Elite will not cater the events, Ostrander said, but she is working on a list of preferred vendors and will be applying for a liquor license.
Ostrander said she knows the renovations will be challenging, but she can see the potential.
“I’ve always been a visionary and can look past the current condition of how things are and see in my mind how things can be,” she said.
Wick said he thinks the couple is energetic and has a lot of unique ideas for the rest of the building.
“I feel like the are going to utilize the space well,” Wick said.