Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation

Cunningham Avenue beautification study's ideas panned

URBANA – The chairman of the city's plan commission is blasting a Cunningham Avenue beautification study as containing "ridiculous," impractical recommendations, including calling for a giant sculpture of prairie grass on Cunningham that would rise several stories over and above Interstate 74.

And the state has told the city some of the ideas in the report are unacceptable or dangerous.

Study proposes three pieces of prairie grass-themed art in Urbana

URBANA – A consultant's report about how to beautify Cunningham Avenue recommends adding three significant pieces of public art costing up to $1.2 million.

The report by Claire Bennett Associates of Indianapolis recommends adding a massive steel sculpture depicting prairie grass on Cunningham that would be amber-colored and arch up over both sides of Interstate 74. Estimated cost: $500,000 to $650,000.

Friendly fun precedes the IHSA football championships

CHAMPAIGN – As the music of heavily teased big-hair rock bands of the 1980s provided pre-game, adrenaline-pumping entertainment (think Bon Jovi's "You give love a bad name"), Robert Simmons prodded hot dogs and flipped pork burgers.

By 10 a.m., the shrimp was blackened and the "Iron Horse Cooking Club" from Casey was ready to start dishing out food for the throngs of football fans expected to start arriving throughout Friday morning.

Danville YMCA marking 125th anniversary

DANVILLE – Danville Family YMCA officials are planning a year of activities to mark the 125 years since it was chartered Dec. 9, 1883.

The first is a dinner and program Dec. 6 at the YMCA, 1111 N. Vermilion St. Tickets cost $12 and are available at the agency. Executive Director John Alexander encouraged anyone who has been involved with the Y to attend.

Illini football fans in prime seats enjoy suite eats at stadium

CHAMPAIGN – "Grapes, someone wants grapes."

Don Block's walkie-talkie is squawking at him. It's about 90 minutes before kickoff at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium on the last home game of the season. With more than 2,000 people to feed, the director of dining services for the UI Housing Division is on the move. From the stadium's new second-floor kitchen, he'll make several trips up to the west-side luxury seating areas to assure both the food and the service meet fans' expectations.

"Do we even have grapes today?" asks a food employee, who snatches a moldy blackberry off a fresh fruit tray that's being served as part of a pregame breakfast.

What fans eat at the 85-year-old stadium depends on where they sit. Most buy their sandwiches, popcorn and soft drinks from concession stands positioned through the stadium.

But fans who have spent thousands of dollars to sit in the stadium's new luxury areas have much different food and drink choices.

Bryant Cottage receives reprieve; volunteers step up to help

BEMENT – The Bryant Cottage State Historic Site will remain open after all.

Dave Blanchette, a spokesman for the Illinois State Preservation Agency, confirmed Friday afternoon that the agency has removed Bryant Cottage from the list of historic sites scheduled to close on Nov. 30.

Bryant Cottage, the home where Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas are said to have planned their debates 150 years ago, is one of only two historic sites being removed from the closure list. The other is the David Davis Mansion in Bloomington.

UI bracing for possible budget troubles

The University of Illinois is bracing for possible cuts in state funding.

Earlier this week, Gov. Rod Blagojevich revealed plans to deal with the state's budget deficit by, among other things, asking higher education to hold back up to 8 percent of general state revenue funding.

University budget staff and campus administrators are, UI spokesman Tom Hardy said, "sharpening their pencils," drafting several scenarios that would detail how the university would deal with any possible rescissions. University President B. Joseph White is expected to review the drafts in December.

Governor reverses some cuts; agencies greet action with caution

CHAMPAIGN – Gov. Rod Blagojevich's move to restore $176 million in budget cuts has local human service agencies reacting cautiously.

"Clearly, it's good news, but there's a major problem right now, and that's cash flow," said Sheila Ferguson, chief executive officer of the Champaign County Mental Health Center, which stands to gain back $51,000 in funding. "Yes, it was the right thing to do; now the right thing to do is expedite payments."

Natural landscape photographer to speak at Prairie Rivers event

CHAMPAIGN – Tim Palmer, an award-winning photographer of America's rivers and natural landscapes, will talk at a local dinner Friday night.

He will be at the 11th annual dinner sponsored by Prairie Rivers Network. It starts with a social hour at 6 p.m. Friday, followed by the 7 p.m. dinner, at the I Hotel and Conference Center, 1802 S. First St., C.

Slow state payments prompt changes at Boys and Girls clubs

DANVILLE – Slow state reimbursement payments have two local youth clubs making a few changes.

At a meeting earlier this month, several Boys and Girls Club directors, including Danville's Ricky Williams Jr. and Champaign's Andre Arrington, learned that the state reimbursements that fund their respective clubs' Teen Reach program were at least two months behind.