Liautauds pledge $1 million to new Champaign County Y

Liautauds pledge $1 million to new Champaign County Y

CHAMPAIGN — Jimmy John Liautaud and his wife Leslie have pledged $1 million toward construction of the new Champaign County YMCA and Larkin's Place at the Y.

That pledge from the founder of the Jimmy John's restaurant chain brings the total amount raised to more than $13.5 million.

"We at the Y are very grateful to Leslie and Jimmy for their very generous gift," said YMCA President and CEO Mark Johnson. "They have continually supported our community and have certainly made Champaign a better place to live."

Johnson said Leslie Liautaud had been talking with the YMCA in recent months and decided three weeks ago that the Y would receive $1 million from the family foundation.

In a statement released Wednesday, Jimmy John Liautaud said the buzz he gets from running the sandwich chain "far exceeds the largesse" he gets from the company.

"The only thing better is the opportunity to choose to give it away," he said.

Liautaud said he, Leslie and their children, Lucy, Spencer and Freddie, appreciate the opportunity to be "part of this great community asset."

In addition to a $5 million commitment from Horizon Hobby co-founder Rick Stephens and his wife, Jeanene, the YMCA has received lead gifts of $1 million or more from:

— Flex-N-Gate Corp. President Shahid Khan and his wife, Ann.

— Horizon Hobby Vice Chair Larry Stephens and his wife, Karen.

— Noel Farms owners Richard and Rosann Noel.

The Y continues to seek support for the new 75,000-square-foot facility, being built at 2501 Fields South Drive, just south of Windsor Road and west of Interstate 57.

That building will replace the current McKinley Family YMCA building at 500 W. Church St., C, and the Fitness & Family Center at 707 N. Country Fair Drive, C.

The new facility, expected to open in early 2012, will include a warm-water therapy pool, a lap pool and a family pool with a slide accessible to those with disabilities.

The building will also house aerobics studios, a wellness area, a gymnastics room, a climbing wall, a playground area, classrooms and an art studio.

Larkin's Place at the Y will offer recreational opportunities for all people, including those with disabilities.

Altogether, costs for the new facility are expected to be in the $17 million range.

Liautaud founded the Jimmy John's sandwich chain in 1983. Today it has more than 1,000 stores across the country.

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ClearVision wrote on June 23, 2011 at 9:06 am

It looks like MTD bus service is very limited to the new YMCA location-- no evening and weekend service at all. Will the Southwest Champaign Transit District step up and provide service, or is this yet another exclusionary tactic?

DEB wrote on June 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Southwest MTD will never provide any services to anybody. Its sole purpose is to bilk taxpayers of their money, not to provide any kind of public good. Call it socialist, call it fascist, or call it fraud. SWMTD will never be an asset to Champaign, Urbana, or even the soutwest residents.

read the DI wrote on June 23, 2011 at 11:06 am

Is this from funds he gained from selling the pelts of the many dead animals he killed for sport?

bettycat wrote on June 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Ironic, that immediately above and to the right of this article is the ad for the Indianapolis Zoo, featuring a (still alive) cheetah. Unlike the one JJ posed with so proudly....

Hard Reality wrote on June 24, 2011 at 10:06 am
BigTenFan wrote on June 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

A very kind act by the JJ's founder. Now, he must donate bandages to appease all these bleeding heart comments. What a country.

Learning2B wrote on June 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Indeed, it is; one where everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

DEB wrote on June 23, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Southwest MTD will never provide any services to anybody. Its sole purpose is to bilk taxpayers of their money, not to provide any kind of public good. Call it socialist, call it fascist, or call it fraud. SWMTD will never be an asset to Champaign, Urbana, or even the soutwest residents.

bluegrass wrote on June 23, 2011 at 1:06 pm

The story is that a man DONATED or is responsible for donating $13.5 million to build a YMCA in our town, replacing a crumbling relic. It is not about cheetahs, or pelts, or the lack of bus service to a construction site. It is about business owners in this town coming together to DONATE their money to a cause for the greater good. Do the world a favor and get over yourselves.

Utowner wrote on June 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Actually, the article says he donated $1 million. $13.5 is the SUM of all donations. Many of these donations come from successful business people in CU who don't whine when they're asked to pay their fair share of taxes, threaten to leave their home state when something they don't like happens, or kill innocent animals. I am 'over myself', Mr. Liautaud, if you know his stances, is not.

read the DI wrote on June 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm


This is clearly an effort to buy himself some good press after all the PR debacle he's stirred up with his opinions and actions.

bremax wrote on June 23, 2011 at 4:06 pm

It takes a lot of class to criticize someone for donating $1,000,000 to the community.

Try harder.

read the DI wrote on June 23, 2011 at 8:06 pm

Tell that to all the safari animals he killed for sport and the former employees who sued for harassment.

BillD wrote on June 29, 2011 at 9:06 am

It takes a lot of class to think money can salvage the reputation of a guy who's lived his life like a self-indulgent child. He underpays and sexually harasses his employees, obviously does not believe in shared sacrifice when it comes to paying his fair share of taxes. He didn't donate any money to my community. He donated to southwest Champaign. He also donated to further inflate his own bloated ego. The NG can gush over this fat cat all they want, but at the end of the day, Jimmy John is only thinking of Jimmy John.

Janet wrote on June 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm

It's good for the Y, but I'll forever think of the "big game hunter" in Carl Hiaasen's book when I see his name.

John Van Grinsven wrote on June 23, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Clearly this is a wonderful donation to the YMCA project and a great leader in Mark Johnson. Thank you Mr. & Mrs Liautaud. Thank you Mark for the hard work in what looks to be a special place for the children to have fun and learn.

Jane32 wrote on June 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm

The YMCA has been struggling for years to pull the money together for this project. It's too bad that an organization that bases its programming on character building has to take money from someone whose character is questionable at best.

I'm Lovin' It wrote on June 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm

This is called reputation resuscitation; it is a PR move.. Anyway, didn't the whole family move to that tax haven referred to as Florida?

Fromthearea wrote on June 23, 2011 at 6:06 pm

a) well you certainly don't see the other donor's names in the headline. b) there's no writer given credit for this piece, so did anyone from news gazette write this or was it a third party? c) maybe he moved his kids away from town after some of his female employees made some particularly unsavory allegations about him, and I believe may have been in the process of pressing charges. You can't do tons of heinous activities in this day and age and expect not to be called on your BS by the public anymore. It's just part of life in 2011.

dd1961 wrote on June 24, 2011 at 5:06 am

Actually, when Rick Stephens gave the initial gift, there were huge headlines in the paper, so you have a short memory.

I understand the animal pictures being distasteful and bad PR, but why is complaining about taxes and the bad climate for business bad PR? Caterpillar wrote a letter to Quinn about it. Caterpillar is busy building new other states because of how bad it is in Illinois. You slam JJ's because he dare speak up and do the same? I think he spoke the mind of many business owners about the situation in Illinois, which is very bad for business.

WiltonDiary wrote on June 24, 2011 at 8:06 am

Caterpillar is not going anywhere. How fair is it to your loyal employee's to up and leave them behind, or worse yet threaten to leave them all behind or relocate in this economic environment? That was terrible PR for Caterpillar.

There are few states in the 50 that are any better than Illinois that were all driven into bankruptcy by Republican Governors and President George W Bush

The main problem with Illinois is your own Congressman Tim Johnson, who is busy calling his 300,000 constituents and NOT doing anything in the US Congress to make the USA or the state of Illinois a better place.

Thanks to Republicans the USA has witnessed over 10 Years and 10 Trillion Dollars in Tax Cuts 10% unemployment and a devastated economy.

dd1961 wrote on June 24, 2011 at 8:06 am

Illinois was driven into its current state by years and years of Democratic rule in Illinois. I find it laughable that you try to blame the Republicans.

Caterpillar was being honest to Quinn as were many other businesses. The climate in Illinois is bad, you must not talk to many business owners, because you have your eyes shut to this.

Also, to think that JJ just was woke up this week and decided to donate is also laughable. Usually donations of this size have had both parties working together for quite some time. The publicity was probably more for the Y, to keep its building in the public eye, something they need to do to get more funds to complete the project. This is the facts of trying to fund raise large sums of money for building projects in the non-profit world. There are people working tirelessly with the businesses in town and it takes a long time and lots of trust between the two parties to get these donations. Kudos to both sides for getting this to work out between them and benefit a worthy organization.

WiltonDiary wrote on June 25, 2011 at 1:06 pm

Thompson, Edgar and Ryan were not Democrats. Do your math and the history of those three alone is what bankrupt the state of Illinois. Cutting taxes does not increase revenue! Voodoo economics, aka: "trickle down," has destroyed the state and the USA. The party of personal responsibility and accountability is a myth and outright lie.

WiltonDiary wrote on June 24, 2011 at 7:06 am

It was merely a pledge, not a donation! Anyone can pledge $1,000,000.00 to any cause. Whether or not they follow through is another story and yet to be realized.

Last month he was threatening to move to Florida, this week he is "pledging" a million do$$ars to the new YMCA. He can revoke that pledge anytime as his mood swings.