Champaign council members voice concerns about night football at McKinley

Champaign council members voice concerns about night football at McKinley

CHAMPAIGN — When you buy a home, Tim Turner said, you expect your kids to play there.

Champaign Central High School's longtime assistant and new head football coach applies that thinking to his own Maroons players, who still have to travel to Centennial to play their "home" games on Tommy Stewart Field.

Turner was among the speakers who urged the Champaign City Council on Tuesday night to consider an old idea that was revived this week — let the Maroons play their home games at McKinley Field, which is much closer to Central's soon-to-expand campus and about to get an upgrade itself as part of Unit 4's $183.4 million facilities package.

As of now, a proposed referendum-related agreement between Unit 4 and city government leaves open the door for McKinley — the Maroons' practice home on New Street — to become Central's main field for varsity games.

The council voted Tuesday for city staff to address that open door — in the form of adding specific language about night football at McKinley.

Echoing a concern expressed by council member Greg Stock in a Tuesday News-Gazette story, several council members said night games would be too detrimental to the residential neighborhood surrounding the field.

Council member Alicia Beck, whose district includes part of the neighborhood, said her constituents had common concerns about night games. They include parking and traffic (some residents park on the street now) and streetlights (the neighborhood doesn't have them), as well as issues related to trash and public-safety enforcement.

"This doesn't mean we'll never make (games) allowed," Beck said, noting that weekend afternoon games might be something residents would consider.

Harold Adams, the vice president of Central's football booster club, said an afternoon game or two at McKinley would be a step in the right direction.

"This is a very unusual setup here, having (Central) share their rivals' field," he said. "I'd hate to restrict their potential."

Stock, whose district also includes part of the McKinley neighborhood, reiterated his stance publicly.

"Our job here is to look at neighborhood wellness and quality of life, not talk about sports fields," Stock said. "To throw this burden on a neighborhood not knowing it was coming — that impacts its wellness."

Tuesday's meeting was a study session, so no final vote was taken on the intergovernmental agreement between the district and city, which includes many referendum-related items.

In other business, the council also voted to reject a $500 pay raise for all council members, who make $5,000 annually, and a $500 travel compensation increase for the mayor.

Several council members said they don't need the extra money, which wouldn't have taken effect until 2021.