Last week's mix of snow and frozen rain made it nasty outside. But thanks to a new indoor batting facility in Tolono, baseball and softball players could still work on their swings.
Randy and Lisa Grace opened The Launch Pad at 111 N. Long St. in Tolono in January. The facility has two batting cages and a workout area.
"People are always looking for a facility to work out in, in bad weather," Randy Grace said. "High school gym space is hard to get, and a lot of teams have to go in at 6 a.m. in order to work out."
The Launch Pad gives athletes a place to work on their game in the off-season. It also provides a venue for travel teams in southern Champaign County that otherwise wouldn't have a place to practice.
Hours are 3:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but use is by appointment only.
To arrange appointments online, go to http://www.leaguelineup.com/launchpad .
Instructors are also available for private lessons on hitting and throwing.
Grace said the building originally housed a Case tractor dealership and later a hardware store, but sat empty for eight years until the Graces bought it last fall. They made a number of improvements to the building, and The Launch Pad occupies about half the 9,000-square-foot space.
In coming up with a name for the facility, the Graces considered the local high school team, the Unity Rockets, and how to develop young athletes.
"We kicked around the question, 'How do you get a Rocket off the ground?'" Grace said. "We thought 'The Launch Pad' was the best."
Finding The Launch Pad shouldn't be difficult for out-of-town visitors, he said. Just take U.S. 45 to the traffic light in Tolono, and The Launch Pad is on the southwest corner.
Wingstop takes flight
Wingstop, the franchise restaurant that offers 10 flavors of chicken wings, opened its newest location Thursday at 512 S. Neil St., C.
The location is at the north end of Katsinas Center at Neil and Green streets — the same complex that houses Jet's Pizza and Hollywood Liquors, among other tenants.
Wingstop's general manager, Steve Burgess, said the wings are cooked to order, and the restaurant also serves fresh-cut french fries, potato salad, coleslaw and bourbon baked beans.
Hours are 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week. The dining room seats 35 and offers Wi-Fi. Burgess said iPads are available for those awaiting carryout orders. Cable TV is also on hand.
"We're not starting delivery when we open, but we want to have delivery up and running by the time the fall semester starts," he said.
Wingstop also fills bulk orders, with 30-, 40- and 50-wing packs available. Burgess said sauce selections for the wings range from a sweet teriyaki to a "very hot atomic habanero."
Burgess said he hopes to get a liquor license so Wingstop can sell bottled beer.
This is the third Wingstop store for the CWK Champaign franchise, which also has stores in the Chicago area.
The local phone number for Wingstop is 690-9464 — or, if it's easier to remember, 690-WING.
Have beds, will travel
The Sleep Number store at Champaign's Market Place Mall will move to a new location in the mall this spring.
Store manager Stacey Sherwood said the store has been in the mall's food court area for 15 years.
But it's planning to move to a larger space along the hallway that connects the center court with Macy's.
Sleep Number will eventually occupy the spaces recently vacated by Wildcountry and Inside Scoop.
Sherwood said the store will be about 2,500 square feet — more than double its current size — and have increased visibility.
The current store accommodates only four bed models. But Sleep Number now offers nine bed models, and the new store will accommodate "a majority of those," Sherwood said.
Pink to get own space
Young patrons of Victoria's Secret may be interested to learn that Pink — a line of lingerie and apparel targeted for women 15 to 22 — will have its own store at Market Place Mall.
Pink will occupy the southern part of the space formerly occupied by Abercrombie & Fitch. As previously announced, the White House | Black Market boutique will occupy the northern part.
"Victoria's Secret will be remodeling its store this summer with Pink moving to its own location," said Dennis Robertson, the mall's general manager.
In addition to lingerie, Pink's merchandise includes sleepwear, swimwear, sweats, shorts, T-shirts and beauty products.
Dress for Less in Danville
Saturday marked the grand opening of the Ross Dress for Less store at Danville's Village Mall. The store's first day of business, however, was Friday.
The off-price apparel and home fashion chain has more than 1,000 stores nationwide. The Pleasanton, Calif.-based chain said it carries the same brand names offered by department and specialty stores for 20 percent to 60 percent less.
Its merchandise includes apparel, shoes and accessories for the entire family, as well as home fashions and gifts.
Until next Sunday — March 17 — customers can enter a contest to win a $500 shopping spree or one of five $100 shopping sprees.
Ross Dress for Less, at 2917 N. Vermilion St., is open 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
The phone number for the Danville store is 443-8376.
Jane Addams gets face-lift
The Jane Addams Book Shop at 208 N. Neil St., C, is undergoing exterior renovations, according to Don Elmore, who owns the business with his wife, Susan.
"We took advantage of the (city's) storefront restoration program," Elmore said. That program gives a 50 percent match for ground-floor restoration projects, up to a maximum of $10,000.
Work on the building — which dates from about 1907 — includes the installation of transom windows above the awning and stamped-tin panels and dark panels underneath it, Elmore said.
The sandstone brick below the display windows will be reconditioned, he added.
The work is expected to last about two more weeks, during which the store will remain open.
There won't be many changes inside the store, Elmore added.
"We have a lot of really loyal customers," he said. "We have 1,500 likes on Facebook, and we send out about that many newsletters. ... We're not going to break the model."
New in fire protection
When McDaniel Fire Systems in Champaign abruptly went out of business last fall, some of its employees took initiative immediately.
Jason Norder, his brother Andy Norder, his cousin Matt Rock and colleague Tyson Farney set up their own fire protection system business.
MATCO Fire Protection, at 1155 Strong St. in Paxton, provides installation, design, service, repair and inspection of sprinkler systems in Illinois and Indiana.
The company does residential, commercial and industrial work.
Jason Norder said the four owners collectively have more than 40 years of experience. All four are union installers affiliated with Local 669 of the sprinkler fitters union.
The phone number for MATCO Fire Protection is 579-1072, and the website is http://www.matcofire.com .
Contact Don Dodson at 351-5227 or 800-252-3346; by email at email@example.com; or by regular mail at The News-Gazette, c/o It's Your Business column, P.O. Box 677, Champaign, IL 61824-0677.