Tom's #Mailbag, Nov. 24, 2017

Tom's #Mailbag, Nov. 24, 2017

Questions for Tom? Ask them here

First, baseball fans and Cubs fans in particular are invited to join the Champaign-Urbana Baseball Stalwarts in the Parade of Lights that starts at 6 p.m. Saturday. We're No. 43 in the parade order (Santa Claus, who is No. 56, apparently wanted us to be near him) and we will assemble before the parade near the corner of Washington and Neil streets. Look for the Cubbie Blue pickup truck decorated in Cubs-related lights. The weather should be terrific for this short and lively parade; the National Weather Service says it will be 41 degrees with winds around 8 mph. There's free parking in the Hill Street parking deck.

Wear your Cubs gear and some form of illumination and celebrate a season almost as successful as last year's (96-76 overall record, including the playoffs).

Onto the mailbag: plenty of questions this week about sports and recreational activities, including an aquatics center in Mahomet, the Champaign Swarm, an old gun club, parking for Illini volleyball games, IHSA eligibility rules, the market for a local go-kart track, vintage recordings of University of Illinois fight songs and a list of athletic directors at Illinois.

Plus questions about Dr. Howard School, local "nuisances" and building activity at Springfield and Mattis.

Dr. Howard School

"PACA members are trying to block the Champaign Central High School expansion by getting historical designations for buildings the district has bought.

"Dr. Howard is again expected to be demolished ... It would help the school district and the city as a whole (because the city cares about having a workable school system) if groups raise timely objections to development instead of unveiling a surprise objection late in the process.

"Have PACA, other community groups, or individuals made objections to the Dr. Howard Elementary renovation? Has anyone objected to the school board, city council, or filed any applications to prevent Dr. Howard demolition or renovation? Has the city taken a position opposing either the Central or Dr. Howard renovation?"

First, here's the response from PACA (Preservation and Conservation Association) Executive Director Thomas Garza:

"The notion that PACA raised a 'surprise objection late in the process' is absolutely untrue. From the very beginning of the Tier 2 planning, PACA made our concerns about the historic nature of the surrounding neighborhood known, and we also attempted to work with the district at every available opportunity. It was only when it finally became clear that the district had no intention of taking our concerns into account that we were compelled to take a different approach and widen our appeal beyond the board itself.

"As to the questions about Dr. Howard, several groups, PACA included, have raised concerns about the plans for Dr. Howard. We have of course pointed out that there are other options that could and should be considered, however, we are aware that in this instance it may not be possible to reasonably save the original building and so barring new information that changes the situation, there are no plans that I am aware of to contest this.

"That doesn't mean that we are comfortable with the district's purchasing of surrounding properties for 'land banking' however, and if we can ever manage to get the district to plainly state what their plans for these houses are, we will certainly object if the intent is to expand outwards from their original footprint into the surrounding neighborhood.

"Assuming that the district follows the same game plan they used with Central, however, we won't know until 'late in the process' what their intentions actually are.

"And for the record we — PACA and many members of the surrounding neighborhood — have already informed the district in no uncertain terms that we strenuously object to their expanding the Dr. Howard campus west past James Street and so if and when we do so publicly, I hope it will not surprise anyone."


Also, Emily Schmit, director of communications and community relations for the school district, emailed this response: "We have received tremendous support for the Dr. Howard project. We hosted a public open house last July to engage with community members and collect input on the new school. We have spent time with the Dr. Howard staff and building stakeholders discussing the project and listening to ideas for the new school, specific classroom needs and more.

"We are excited to build a new school that reflects the values of the neighborhood and meets the educational and accessibility needs of our students. We believe the community and building stakeholders are ready and understand the need for a rebuild."

Illini recordings more than 90 years old

"Do old recordings of the university's school songs exist anywhere? For instance, are there historical recordings of 'Oskee Wow Wow' or 'Illinois Loyalty' from when they were first created/performed?"

Indeed they do exist. Thanks to our friends at the University of Illinois, we've been made aware of two vintage records from 1925 of the University of Illinois Military Band, conducted by the university's first band director, A. Austin Harding, performing "Hail to the Orange and Blue," "Illinois Loyalty March" and "Oskee Wow Wow."

The MP3 files that are linked below are the A and B sides of a Victor disc recording, said Scott Schwartz, archivist for music and fine arts and director of the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music at the UI.

Chris Prom, the assistant university archivist, said the University Archives holds a great deal of print music for the early 20th century ...

And here's the link to the 1925 recordings ...

Indoor go-kart track?

"What are your thoughts on an indoor go-kart track in the C-U area? You could have a track for younger people and a more advanced track for the dads, so to speak?"

It would be fun and it likely would lose money. The only similar businesses nearby are in the Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne areas.

Champaign Swarm

"What is the status of the Champaign Swarm semi pro basketball team that had been playing at Parkland College?"

I got this response from the Midwest Professional Basketball Association: "The status of the Swarm for 2018 in the (Midwest Professional Basketball Association) is undecided.

"The league postponed its 2017 season but will be playing in 2018. Announcements and updates should be posted on the website and the MPBA Facebook page before the end of the year."

What's interesting about that response is the reference to the website. There, the top story has the headline: "MPBA to launch 2017 summer league." It was posted on Jan. 9, 2017.

Mahomet aquatics center

"What ever happened to the aquatic center exploratory committee the Mahomet Parks Department had about six years ago? Mahomet seems perfect for a public-private indoor pool. A town like Crawfordsvile, IN can support one, surely Mahomet can."

Dan Waldinger, the director of parks and recreation for the village of Mahomet, said the village conducted a study on the feasibility of an indoor recreation center and outdoor pool in 2013.

"The study identified a number of priorities and analyzed the size, scope and general cost of such a facility," he said. "Of course, funding such a facility is a challenge, particularly given the lack of available grants. Although it has been some time since the study was completed, the village continues to explore creative ways to fund such a facility."

The 31-page study concluded that residents of the Mahomet area "have limited opportunities for indoor, multi-generational recreation, and most of the ones that do exist lie outside of the preferred driving distance."

"Based on community input gathered through statistically-valid community survey results, stakeholder input, village staff input, public open house responses and consultant evaluation, the recommended solution to meeting these needs is to construct a 44,500 square foot indoor community recreation center with an adjacent outdoor pool on a site with the capacity to later add outdoor program areas," the report said. "The capital construction cost for the facility and related sitework has been estimated to be between $11 and $11.8 million dollars with a total project cost estimated between $14.0 million and $15.3 million dollars. Funding sources including bonds, grants, donations, partnerships will need to be explored further to determine the best approach to meeting the capital costs.

"The facility as a whole is expected to perform well from an operational perspective, recovering between 82 percent and 93 percent of its operating expenses during the first six years. Although a site has not been selected, three preferred sites have been identified as the best suited for a new facility."

The three sites were identified as the Purnell Development west of Prairieview Road and south of U.S. 150; the Odle Family Management on the west side of South Division Street and south of 150; and the Hildreth Property at the southeast intersection of 150 and McDougal Road.

IHSA eligibility rules

"Interesting comments attached to the Central/Bailey Dee story. One says that by trying out, IHSA rules prohibit the player from transferring. Is that true?"

Matt Troha, assistant executive director of the Illinois High School Association, said that "the IHSA can never prohibit a student from transferring, only from having eligibility when they transfer."

A little more: "IHSA rules would say that if you participate in a single practice or tryout at a school, you can't play in that sport at another school in the same school year.

"Thus, if a student at Champaign Centennial went to the first football practice in August, then moved to Quincy and enrolled and QHS, they'd be eligible for all other fall (and winter and spring) sports, but not football."

Old gun club

"I came across an early 1937 reference to the Illini Gun Club range 'just northwest of Champaign and Urbana, Illinois.' It described the range as 'well laid out with forty small-bore firing points, five for big bore and ten for pistol. There is ample space just west of the present site to allow for expansion, part of which undoubtedly will be used before next year's tournament. A large four room club house provides for the statistical office and is a most welcome spot during chilly or wet days.' Do you have any information as to where this range was located, and when is was last in operation?"I found two newspaper stories from 1952, one of which said that sport shooting had been going on at the club for about 25 years, which would take it back to around 1927.

It said that the Illini Gun Club was on a pasture "about one half-mile south of the Champaign Airport."

The Champaign Airport at that time was around what is now Mattis Avenue and West Anthony Drive. So a half-mile south of there would have been approximately what is now Bloomington Road or I-74 and Mattis.

When the gun club closed I do not know.

Illini volleyball parking

"We are season ticket holders and support Illini volleyball. What are parking plans for future seasons for fans? We hear the south grass parking area is going away. Is that true?"

Yes, that area will be closed to parking during the 2018-19 season because of construction on the Siebel Center for Design. Ground will be broken for that $48 million building — to be located on the grass field south of Huff — next spring, said UI spokeswoman Robin Kaler.

Parked cars at business

"I wondered if there are any covenants or laws about businesses leaving vehicles out on their property for an extended period of time. I was out to lunch near Bradley Avenue today and noticed that Mr. Fix It has several unlicensed cars and trucks sitting all around the building. There is another building just down the road that had several vehicles in disrepair along this area. Who enforces this and what is the law? It just looks like an eyesore and probably won't improve unless the city does something about it."

Champaign Zoning Administrator Kevin Phillips said he was glad to answer your question. He said this was the first time he's heard a complaint about the property "and it helps us when people take the time to tell us about things that they think aren't right."

Generally speaking, he said, "businesses in commercial or industrial districts whose business involves the sale or repair of motor vehicles are exempt from the requirement to license vehicles which are on their properties for repair or sale. This exception to the rule is in place for practical and economic reasons. Car dealers and repair shops could not function without it.

"Specifically, I looked at Mr. Fix It and to me it looked as though the only visible violation of the City Code was that a number of vehicles were being stored/parked on the grass, which is a violation of the nuisance codes.

"I have referred this issue to the Neighborhood Services Department, which handles nuisances, and they will follow through."

As for the other building in the area that you referenced, Phillips said he "drove around the area and saw no further violations that I could discern. I will gladly look again if your caller will aim me in the right direction, although places that work on cars by their nature have some vehicles in disrepair parked about."

If you have concerns about nuisance and use issues in Champaign, he suggested calling either the Neighborhood Services or Planning/Zoning departments.

Activity at Mattis & Springfield

"There's a lot of fence around multiple properties on the northeast corner of Springfield and Mattis, and I was just curious as to why."

The city has a demolition permit application for the church building, said Larry Happ, Champaign's building safety supervisor, but a permit application for new development has not been submitted.

Bruce Knight, Champaign's planning and development director, said the property was rezoned to neighborhood commercial some time ago when it was thought CVS drug store was going there.

"The chain decided against that location and the owners have been looking for a new use. Nothing has been announced yet, but it would appear they are preparing to develop the site for a commercial use," said Knight.Ebert's lack of interest in sports, confirmed

"This is in regards to last week's post about Roger Ebert being a White Sox fan. Someone shared the piece with Ebert's long-time friend, Bruce Elliott. This is what he had to say ..."

UI athletic directors

"Where can I find a historical list of the university's athletic directors?"

From Illinois Associate Athletic Director Kent Brown: "We include the list next to Josh Whitman's bio sketch in the football and basketball media guides, but it doesn't currently appear on our website except within the digital copies of those publications."

Brown said he would work to "have the list included as its own link on moving forward." How's that for service?

Here's the list:

1892-94 Edward K. Hall

1894-95 Fred D. Dodge

1895-98 Henry H. Everett

1898-1901 Jacob K. Shell

1901-1936 George A. Huff

1936-1941 Wendell S. Wilson

1941-1966 Douglas R. Mills

1967-1968 (interim) Leslie Bryan

1967-1972 E.E. (Gene) Vance

1972 (interim) Charles E. Flynn

1972-1979 Cecil N. Coleman

1979 (interim) Ray Eliot

1980-1988 Neale R. Stoner

1988 (interim) Ronald E. Guenther

1988 (interim) Karol A. Kahrs

1988-1991 John Mackovic

1992-2011 Ronald E. Guenther

2011-2015 Michael J. Thomas

2015-2016 (interim) Paul Kowalczyk

2016- Josh Whitman

Archived Illini broadcasts

"Can radio broadcasts of past Fighting Illini games from this season be accessed anywhere? Are they archived somewhere online?"

There are no archived radio broadcasts, but there are highlights of this year's games at ...