Smile Politely

Year of the Park, A to Z: Mattis Park, Champaign


Mattis Park


601 Devonshire Dr., Champaign 

A wooden sign that says Mattis Park

Photo by Maddie Rice. 


This expansive park on the south side of Devonshire Dr. in Champaign is really the result of the right location, and the right time. This part of Champaign is actually relatively new, if you look back, and the business development that supplanted a Par 3 golf course and some leftover farm land, really made it possible for such a lovely park to flourish. 

It was donated to the Park District in 1966 by a trio of humans named Mrs. T.J. Camp, Mrs. H.I. Cone, and Mrs. Alan McDonald. That is what it says on the Champaign Park District website. I’ve always liked the last name “Cone” honestly. It’s referenced in one of my favorite episodes of Seinfeld — “The Library” to be precise. Kramer is exasperated by the idea that the library cop has the last name of Bookman. And he compares it to someone who ran an ice cream shop named Cone. Always made me laugh

But there’s also David Cone, a fireballer on the Bluejays and then the Yankees back in the early 90s. He was fierce. He has a Cy Young, five rings, led the majors in strikeouts three straight years, pitched a perfect game, and is tied for 2nd for most strikeouts in a game, at 19. 

The fact that he isn’t in the Hall of Fame is a showcase of just how hard it is to get in. Maybe I just miss baseball. I mean, I realize it’s being played, but come on, this isn’t a real season. We know it. 

Anyhow, Mattis Park. It was donated by three women who are being ascribed to their husband’s name. Indeed, times have changed in 54 years. 

Photo by Maddie Rice. 


I love the lagoon in Mattis Park. It’s sort of just different than most any other park in town in that regard. Other parks have bodies of water, but not quite as lagoon like as this one. 

If you’ve been reading along, any park with a walking path is a plus in my book, and on this trail, you have a really nice sculpture to examine as you walk along. This is another one put in place by the Public Art League, and for that we are very grateful! I like this sculpture, which is to say, it’s a little like something from a Tim Burton film — Beetlejuice to be exact — and it is because of this that I like it. The sculptor has good ideas, indeed. 

A picture of a light bluw modern quasi-absurdist sculpture, with tentacle like arms coming out of the ground

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

Another interesting feature, which is also a sculpture, is the pretend piano that sits along a nice little garden. While it doesn’t play, it’s fun to jump on it and pretend to be Tom Hanks in the movie Big. Still can’t believe that dude’s brother lives here and has lived here, for like… 35 years. Incredible. 

a picture of a large sculpture model piano next to flower gardens

Photo by Maddie Rice. 

All in all, it’s a really nice park, despite it being surrounded by a business park. That is OK, honestly. Every piece of the city deserves places as nice as this one, and I am sure am glad to have it. 

Top image by Maddie Rice. 

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