MONTICELLO — The city’s long-awaited recreation complex may get a boost from a brand-new foundation: The one being formed by the family of Chris Oberheim, the Champaign police officer and Monticello resident killed in the line of duty last month.
Officer Oberheim’s widow, Amber, told the Monticello City Council this week that she can think of no better way to pay tribute to her husband — who was also a passionate longtime coach — than by helping make the 30-acre Monticello recreation complex a realty.
“Because of the overwhelming support from our very awesome community, I feel like there wouldn’t be any better way to honor Chris and pay back the community, and represent something that would encompass family fun in the moment,” she said.
She relayed to council members that when she and her husband would buy the occasional lottery ticket and dream of what to do with their winnings, his always came back to his main passion: coaching softball.
“In every conversation, there was inevitably a softball complex, and he said that ‘I would quit my job tomorrow and we would build some sort of fantastic facility, and that would be my job, and I would live happily ever after,’” Oberheim said.
She proposed a possible partnership with the city regarding a 30-acre piece of land located on the west edge of town near the Allerton Public Library, one that has been eyed for a recreational facility since it was purchased by the city in 2009.
Oberheim said she has been floored by the “ridiculous amount of support” for the nonprofit foundation — dubbed Peacemaker Project 703 — and is ready to put it to use.
City leaders have long said the main goal of the recreation project is to provide space for local recreation, something that is severely lacking.
Oberheim encouraged them to dream bigger.
“If we want to keep this on a recreation level, I think that’s great, but I was thinking it would be a fantastic way to return to the community and provide economic stimulus in the meantime,” she said, pointing out that she had plenty of experience as a softball and soccer mom who had logged plenty of miles and spent plenty of dollars on travel ball. “I was thinking, why couldn’t we use it for a recreational purpose Monday through Thursday, and use it as an economic stimulus, if you will, for tournament travel Friday, Saturday and Sunday?”
And if early talks are any indication, she thinks her foundation can secure corporate sponsorships to help pave the way.
Mike Koon, a city council member and chair of the 30-ace recreation committee, agreed the city should now adjust its expectations.
“We had come up with some thoughts in the last couple months to try to make some recommendations to the council,” Koon said. “This certainly changes that in terms of the reach from a fundraising standpoint. Because of that, we will be willing to come beside you and make this complex for Chris.
“This changes the scope of what this can be, and helps us to maybe dream a little more than we did before,” he added. “The community needs fields, needs a park, but the fact that this could also be a tournament site and a road destination to show more of Monticello, this could be much more than we imagined.”
The level of support from the foundation was not spelled out, but could at the least mean using the Oberheim foundation as a fundraising platform.
Last month, Alderman Wendall Brock passed along a suggestion of naming a street after Officer Oberheim. He also liked the idea of a linking his name to local recreation.
“I’m 110 percent in favor of that. I would love to see the sign posted back behind the library that said ‘future site of the Chris Oberheim Recreational Sports Complex,’” Brock said.