With strong support for the Visit Champaign County Foundation, we were able to hit major milestones in a variety of destination development initiatives to support our mission.
2022 Major Projects
Champaign County African American Heritage Trail
Led by co-chairs Barbara Suggs Mason and Angela Rivers, the Champaign County African American Heritage Trail seeks to educate today's residents and visitors about the rich cultural history of a people whose stories have been largely unrecognized, but who directly shaped the place we call home. The Heritage Trail made significant strides forward in 2023.
The Heritage Trail's first signs were installed, starting with a sign at One Main Plaza in Champaign commemorating Frederick Douglass' visit to Champaign County in 1869. Other signs installed as of summer 2023 recognize the former home of Albert R. Lee, student demonstrations for equal rights, the Bethel A.M.E. Church in Champaign, and the former Homer Park.
Preliminary plans for Skelton Park were finalized and went out for bid in summer 2023. The park, which is expected to be completed in winter 2023, will be transformed into a celebration of local African American musicians and will include a large sculpture designed by artists Preston Jackson, a seating wall and sloped berm, new pathways, interactive musical instruments, lighting, and enhancements to Boneyard Creek. The Foundation also launched a drive to support the Heritage Trail by selling bricks that donors can inscribe and have installed in Skelton Park.
The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity announced that the Heritage Trail would receive a Tourism Attractions & Festivals Program Grant of $475,000. This grant will allow the Heritage Trail to install additional signs and murals, complete the Skelton Park transformation, and advance other strategic goals.
As Trail progress continues, stay tuned to ccafricanamericanheritage.org for updates.
Make It CU
For the past few years, we have collaborated with the Champaign County Economic Development Corporation to improve messaging and programming that can help employers attract and retain top talent in the greater Champaign-Urbana area. Numerous resources and opportunities were created to help bolster the community during the hiring process, such as trainings, virtual and in-person tours, videos, seasonal checklists, and much more.
We continued to operate the Chambana Welcome Crew—a community ambassador program that pairs new and prospective residents with community members who are passionate and knowledgeable about the area. To date, our nearly 50 community ambassadors have connected with well over 100 new or prospective residents.
Further enhancing the new resident experience, we continued to host our New to CU Mixers, which create a welcoming space for newcomers to start conversations, form relationships, and feel connected in their new community. Simply meeting other new residents goes a long way in making everyone feel welcome. Mixers in 2023 will be hosted at exciting venues in the community, including Triptych, Riggs, Jupiter's, and the Krannert Art Museum. These mixers continue quarterly, so follow experiencecu.org/newtocu for updates.
US Quadball Midwest Regional Tournament
The first quadball event hosted at the Rantoul Family Sports Complex (RFSC), and the first major quadball tournament hosted in Champaign County, will take place in November 2023 when US Quadball brings their Midwest Regional Tournament to our community. The Foundation supported the bid to host quadball at the RFSC and has been integral in coordinating logistics between the event organizers and RFSC staff. The tournament is expected to draw teams from Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Illinois.
Inspired by the sport of quidditch, quadball is a mixed gender contact sport with a unique mix of elements from rugby, dodgeball, and tag. A quadball team is made up of seven athletes who play with brooms between their legs at all times. While the game can appear chaotic to the casual observer, once familiar with the basic rules, quadball is an exciting sport to watch and even more exciting to play.
Other Events Supported by the Foundation:
Our Film Office has continued to serve as a resource for filmmakers interested in taking advantage of Champaign County’s unique and varied locations, affordable services, and easy permitting processes. One of the most recent films that our office helped support, You’re OUT!, was released in 2023 on Apple TV, YouTube, DirecTV, and more platforms and had its official theatrical debut at the Savoy 16 in August 2023.
What’s Coming in 2024
- Illinois Middle School Championships – March 2024
- U.S. Lacrosse – May 2024
- Additional African American Heritage Trail progress, including installation of additional signs, murals, and other educational and placemaking projects
- More Chambana Welcome Crew mixers and events to introduce new residents to amazing places in our community