Smile Politely

Things C-U can look forward to in the new decade

With the first decade of the 21st century now in the history books, we can begin culminating our hopes for what the new decade will bring. And if the Mayans turn out to be wrong, and the world doesn’t end in 2012, maybe Champaign-Urbana will have some improvements to look forward to. And if the world does happen to pop off in 2012, well, at least we can tidy up the place in preparation for the Four Horsemen and all that jazz.

So, in that spirit, we’ve racked our brains to try to come up with things that would make our little slice of heaven even more pleasant over the next decade. From businesses that we’d like to see take root, to administrative changes in existing bodies, to off-the-wall ideas that we just wanted to throw out there, this list has something for everyone. And if you have an idea for something that we didn’t mention, please make note of that in the comments. Happy New Year!


Minor League baseball with beer sales: Level of Importance — 6/10

It seems crazy, but the best “Minor League” baseball in East Central Illinois resides not in C-U, but 30 miles east in Danville. And while making the drive to Champaign’s dirty cousin’s house is all well and good a few times a summer, it’s hard to get excited about the team, let alone following them as you would for a team like, say, the Fighting Illini. I have a friend — who owns a gym in this town, and who was once an MLB prospect — who has told me his plan to get a Minor League franchise in here, and my God, I hope that at some point, it’s realized. It would take more than just a contract in principle; it would take beer sales. No questions asked. Perhaps one day when the university stops treating adults like children, it could happen at Illinois Field, but for me personally, I say build a small grandstand and extend the field at Spalding Park and let’s get this thing moving. 

Nothing would please me, and legions of baseball hounds, more than to unite the Cubs/Cards/Sox fans who annually duke it out all summer than with one team we could call our own: The Champaign-Urbana Prairie Fire… oh wait… not that one. — Seth Fein


Pedigogical Diversity in Our School Systems: Level of Importance — Pretty Darn High

I would like to see the three local public high schools provide an academic style education that would allow students to enroll in a variety of programs.  Such a restructuring would provide students who have alternative learning styles, ambitious career objectives and/or specific areas of academic interests with an educational environment more attuned to their needs.  This kind of approach would include programs like Visual and Performing Arts, Technology or Foreign Languages. As a community we share a great deal of resources that allow us to provide a rigorous, meaningful and pedagogically diverse education to all of our students.  In order to capitalize upon these resources, we’ll need to work with one another and be creative. Hopefully that’s not too much to ask. —Caleb Curtiss


The Campustown to Downtown corridor: Level of Importance —  7/10

I can’t say that the Champaign Park District is flawless; naturally, there are more than a few things about their programming, swimming pools, and dearth of parks with trees and actual things to do that bum me out as a Champaign taxpayer. But I think that the Campustown to Downtown corridor might be the stroke of genius that helps get them out of their rut. The Scott Park renovations look tremendous, and while at this point no one is quite sure just what in the hell is happening to the 4+ acre plot of land between Springfield and Clark St., something tells me the end result will be consistent.

The idea to adjoin the two cities into one is something that you can read about in another paragraph, but at the least, the idea of making Champaign’s “two Downtowns” into one (as best as possible) is an intelligent move, both economically and psychologically. After all, there are few reasons for division, and many for unification. Especially within the confines of one city. Cheers to the CPD for getting on top of this one. — Seth Fein



Trader Joes’ or Whole Foods in downtown Champaign: Level of Importance — 7/10

Shopping at Schnuck’s or Meijer — the only two places outside of the Co-op that are acceptable for decent produce — is a bit of a bummer. In fact, it down right sucks, especially when you compare it to pushing a cart around places like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, both located just a couple hours north in and around Chicago. And let’s get real: the Food Co-op we have here is tremendous. And Strawberry Fields is as well. These spaces have a great deal of value in our community, and by no means is being wishful for one of the bigger “health / organic” grocery stores an indictment of their work. To be clear: we LOVE both of them.

But they are in Urbana, which is perfect for the quaint and smaller town that it is. Champaign needs a bigger, more accessible store like the aforementioned in order to keep pace with other cities economically, and culturally. That’s what this really comes down to: holding onto residents.

Countless times have I heard people state loudly: “…plus, there is no Whole Foods here…” etc, etc. And as a lifetime resident, I am sadly forced to agree with them. The quality in produce, the organic meats, the fresh seafood — all of it — is something that Champaign not only needs, but could also sustain.

But alas, reports from home offices of both chains feel differently. So, for the moment, it seems like we’ll remain without them. But the last time I checked, people still liked unprotected sex a whole bunch, and you know what that means, right? Humans. Lots of them — to fill up our-just-under-populated-a-touch city. And that will mean enough dollars to justify one of these stores in downtown champaign. I know the perfect place too: on Walnut, just north of REO Way, just beyond the Kuhns lot. Raze those buildings and let the Green Letters shine! — Seth Fein


White St. finally reopens between 1st and 3rd: Level of Importance — 6/10

For you automobilers out there, this probably isn’t even on your radar, but anyone who bicycles regularly between downtown Champaign and Urbana has been affected by the closure of White Street for the past six months or so. I thought I’d had my head in the sand and completely missed the announcements about the road work (which should lead to a really nice linear park, as Seth describes above). But as a resident of C-U since only late 2007, I’d just missed out any discussion, which concluded in July 2007.

And the road work isn’t closing just White, either: Stoughton and the bridge on Clark are closed too. So, cyclists have their choice of playing bumpercars on University, Springfield, or Green; heading six or seven blocks out of the way to pick up Washington; riding through the alley behind the Boys and Girls Club; or dodging equipment traffic to get the opportunity to ride on the dirt alleyway just south of University. A primary bike route has been closed for six months and will likely be closed for at least six more (completion target for the project is late 2010), and there’s no provision or communication on the part of the city to re-route. — Joel Gillespie


A Literary Arts Festival: Level of Importance — 5/10

We have the venues, we have the audience and we have the precedent (Ebertfest anyone?) — now all we need is for the university to collaborate with the city and put their money where their landgrant is (or something).  Seriously, how awesome would it be to play host to a bunch of temperamental poets, self-important fiction writers and the various literary enthusiasts (translated as “aspiring writers”) who follow them around?  Sure, C-U would be swallowed by a sea of black turtlenecks for a few days, but it would be worth it to hear the heads poking out from said turtlenecks read their work out loud, wouldn’t it?  Actually, given that we share our community with so many talented writers I’m a little surprised that we don’t have one of these things already. 

—Caleb Curtiss


An authentic Irish Pub: Level of Importance — 4/10

Can I get some black pudding or what? How about some real fish and chips? Or some Shepard’s Pie? Seriously? There is not one Irish person in this community that can’t see the huge potential for profit on this one? And don’t even begin to utter the word Murphy’s to me. What a pathetic excuse for an Irish Pub. Just naming it Murphy’s and slapping a clover leaf on the front of the building doesn’t mean shit.

Seriously, this would need to come from someone who truly knew the landscape of Ireland. In West Lafayette, home to Purdue University, Nine Brother’s (pictured) kills it almost every night of the week. They serve up all things authentic Irish, from Bangers and Mash to playing rugby on the tellies.

So, come on here. Some one do it up right. I promise I will ditch the diet at least once a month to indulge. After all, this chipper below here in Dublin caused a minor heart attack that felt real good:

Fish and Chips from Justine B. on Vimeo.

— Seth Fein


Champaign and Urbana merge into one mega-micro-urban community, Urbanpaign: Level of Importance — 2/10

Sure, it’s kind of silly that there are two separate downtowns, governments, and school systems for this fine community; I mean, who do we think we are, Bloomington-Normal? But with all the talk of belt-tightening going around lately, consolidation of Champaign and Urbana’s positions and functions doesn’t seem to get much traction.

But why not? A little streamlining and cooperation might be just what these towns need to take it to the next level. Heck, maybe they should even cut Savoy in on the deal. Urbanpaign needs an airport, and a third Wal-Mart. — Joel Gillespie


Monorail: Level of Importance — 10/10.

It’s gotta happen. Cost is no object.


Renovations to the Virginia Theater: Level of Importance — 5/10

While the new bathrooms are wonderful, and the spiffy paint job will look nice, the glaring eyesore that is the gash in the plaster facade above the screen needs to be repaired. The Virginia Theatre is a majestic one-screen cinema that few theaters could aspire to emmulate, and it would only bring her back a little more dignity to patch up this beautiful work of art in the auditorium. Theater patrons are forced to look at this disparaging aspect of the auditorium with each screening. Enough is enough, time to patch her gaping wound. — Jamie Newell


A New Mascot for the University of Illinois: Level of Importance — 1/10


Despite some of my very first memories being of “Chief Illiniwek” doing his halftime dog and pony dance, I was pretty happy to see him get retired.  You know, because of the whole racialized paternalistic, white-privilege-reinforcing sentiment that drove the whole thing? Anyway, in “The Chief’s” absence some fans have promoted a new, super-creepy tradition of pretending he’s still around by standing and raising their hands above their head during half-time. This is stupid and must end soon (it also reminds me of an evangelical church service with the Chief cast as the Holy Ghost). My hope for C-U is that a. these people get a life and b. the U of I adopts a new mascot.  I’ve heard it suggested that we get an orange Grimace-like “Illy” to take the reigns — you know, like Hilly, of Western Kentucky Hilltopper fame?


—Caleb Curtiss

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