By Steve Robinson | December 30, 2008 - 10:20 pm

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – For members of one of two basketball teams from Pekin Park District’s Illinois River Valley Special Recreation Association, literally having a big crowd at one of the teams’ games often means a few friends, family, and the occasional reporter on scene now and again.

But on Tuesday, the team, designated IRVSRA Black, literally took center court in the main gym of the Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus during an exhibition of Special Olympics basketball against a team from Bloomington-based Special Opportunities Available in Recreation (SOAR).

The 8-minute quarter-long exhibition between IRVSRA and SOAR Orange, from Bloomington, took place at halftime of the Holiday Classic’s Boys Class 3A-4A Championship game between Rockton-Hononegah High School and Normal Community High School.

A packed Shirk Center crowd of 2,000 people stayed in their seats to see the exhibition, in which IRVSRA Black outscored SOAR, 6-4. Enthusiastic applause followed each player’s basket, which was appreciated by IRVSRA scorers Larry Woods, who sank one basket, and Steve Lawson, who scored two.

Special OlympicsKevin Kaufmann, an IRVSRA player, said he enjoyed being on the larger regulation court and hearing the applause from the large crowd. Normally, IRVSRA plays its games in grade school or small high school gyms, so the increase in court size – not to mention crowd size – was an interesting experience.

“It’s great to have all the people stay in their seats and cheer the teams on because, to have all of these people stay and watch them is inspiring to our athletes,” said Larry Needham, who co-coaches for IRVSRA Black, along with Rick Leesman.

“Our fans love the exhibitions,” said Dave Oloffson, tournament vice president. “The fans watching the championship games will stay in their seats during those halftimes.

“No one leaves the stands to go to the concessions until after the demonstrations,” Oloffson said. “The athletes take to the court, they tip-off, and our fans love it. The fans cheer the athletes. We have a great announcer who gets everybody into the event. We make sure we announce each athlete’s name, and the fans love it…it’s great basketball, and it just keeps getting more popular.”

IRVSRA Goes 2-0: IRVSRA began the day being joined by five other Special Olympics basketball teams from Bloomington and Champaign in participating in The Ron Knisley Memorial Shootout at the Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan University campus.

Special OlympicsThe Ron Knisley Memorial Shootout involves six teams in a round robin format. Pekin IRVSRA last brought a team to the Knisley Shootout in 2005.

IRVSRA won both of their morning games, starting the day by beating the Champaign-Urbana Special Olympics Bulldogs, 52-38. They followed that up with a 54-30 win over SOAR Purple. The wins increase IRVSRA’s season record to 4-2. Their next challenge comes next month in Dunlap where they will play in a district competition. First place finishers from Dunlap move on to the Special Olympics Illinois State Basketball Tournament in Normal in March.

A total of nine teams from agencies in central Illinois that serve people with developmental disabilities, including IRVSRA, took part in the day-long event. Six of them played in the round-robin tourney, and three others participated in exhibition demonstrations at halftime of each of the four Holiday Classic Championship games.

statefarmholidayclassic.gifThe Knisley Memorial Shootout, in its seventh year, is part of the Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament, which began Dec. 26, and ran for four days, excluding Sunday, and concluded with four championship games in Boys Class 1A-2A, Girls Class 1A-2A, Boys Class 3A-4A, and Girls Class 3A-4A, as well as the Knisley Shootout, at the Shirk Center.

Both SOI and the Holiday Classic benefit in other ways from their association. Holiday Classic organizers hold their meetings at SOI State Headquarters in Normal preparing for the annual post-Christmas event. In turn, committee members, their family members, and friends volunteer at SOI’s State Basketball Tournament. Oloffson said with 40 committee members, which can swell the number of volunteers considerably to around 120 people.

Event Honors Knisley: Knisley, 52, worked at SOI in a number of positions from 1991 until Cancer claimed his life on Oct. 13, 2005. At the time of his death, he was director of sports and competition in SOI’s state office in Normal.

Seven years ago, and in his off-hours from SOI, Knisley was a member of the organizing committee for the Holiday Classic and got Special Olympics teams interested in participating in the one-day event.

Organizers of the Holiday Classic renamed the one-day round robin event in Knisley’s honor after his death. IRVSRA sent a team to the Knisley Memorial Shootout that year. This year’s Knisley Memorial Shootout will be the first time since then that IRVSRA has returned to it.

“(Naming the Shootout after Knisley) was something the other committee members felt would be the best tribute to our friend, Ron, and to honor his memory,” Oloffson said.

Travel Cost Issues: This year’s Knisley event ran into some financial obstacles, Oloffson said.

“Travel costs, as with other areas of the economy, have taken a hit, but we were very fortunate to get these nine teams to come in and play, and give these athletes an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of a big crowd.”

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – Fans watching Stanford Olympia against Peoria Christian at the Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament had hopes for almost one full half that their team would go on to the tourney’s Boys’ Class 1A-2A Championship game Tuesday night.

But a one-man, 12-point barrage by Peoria Christian’s Billy Molinari on four treys in the last three and a half minutes of the first half, on Monday night, sent the Chargers to the championship instead, defeating the Spartans, 70-48.

As a result of the loss, Olympia (10-3) played the losing team in a contest between Macon Meridian and Bloomington Central Catholic. The winner of that game would lay claim to third place in the tournament’s Boys’ Class 1A-2A tournament.

“We were fortunate to be ahead in the first quarter,” Olympia head coach Gerry Thornton said. “(Peoria Christian) won the ‘hustle’ plays – they won the loose balls, got the rebounds.”

Olympia owned a 13-11 lead after one quarter on baskets by Matt Flynn, Spencer Pratt, and a deuce and a trey supplied by Brady Cremeens.

Pratt had two threes in the second quarter, but after his last one, putting Oly up, 22-15, Peoria Christian’s Billy Molinari, son of Western Illinois University head coach Jim Molinari, hit four straight threes, leading to the Chargers going in front at halftime, 34-23. Molinari had a game-high 26 points on the night, including five treys on the night, and shooting 5-of-6 from the free throw line.

statefarmholidayclassic.gifAlthough Peoria Christian (10-0) closed out the first half on Molinari’s efforts, the Chargers’ scoring continued with one more basket to open the third quarter by Jake Winkler to give head coach Jay Bruer’s team a 14-0 run, and a 36-23 lead with 6:23 left in the third quarter.

The Spartans did manage a 6-0 spurt midway through the third quarter on baskets by Matt Frahm and Matt Flynn, cutting Peoria Christian’s lead 39-32, at the 3:58 mark, but it was not enough, as the Chargers took a 46-39 lead into the fourth quarter.

Thornton said he thought his team was “crawling out of” the hole they were in as a result of Frahm and Flynn’s third quarter efforts, but he said Peoria Christian’s players “beat us down the floor.”

Cremeens led Olympia’s scoring with 13 points, followed by Frahm and Pratt, each man scoring 10 points.

“We got beat in every phase of the game,” Thornton concluded.

As a result of fouls by Oly, Peoria Christian sent four separate players to the free throw line in the fourth quarter – Nathaniel White, Billy Molinari, David Molinari, and Nathan Lyons – for a combined 16-for-17 shooting from the line.

White followed Billy Molinari in double figures with 17 points.

“As the game went on, through the second, third, and fourth quarters, the bounces went our way,” said Peoria Christian head coach Jay Bruer. “Our guys were playing hard every possession, and that wore on Olympia a little bit.”

By Steve Robinson | December 26, 2008 - 10:50 pm

BasketballBLOOMINGTON – As day one of competition in Boys Class 1A-2A of the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament concluded Friday, basketball squads from Hartsburg-Emden High School and Stanford Olympia High School find themselves going in different directions.

Olympia (9-2) advanced to the championship bracket with a win over El Paso-Gridley, while Peoria Christian used a pair of scoring runs, totaling 18-0, to send Hartsburg Emden into the consolation bracket with a 2-4 record.

Both teams battled their respective opponents Friday at the Shirk Center on the Illinois Wesleyan campus.

Stanford Olympia 60, El Paso Gridley 43: It almost looked like El Paso Gridley hadn’t heeded a lesson their head coach, Brian Quam, said he and his assistants have been trying to get across to their players.

That lesson: Every free throw counts.

The Titans sank just 8-of-24 free throws, giving what became a considerable advantage to Stanford Olympia, as the Spartans beat EP-G, 60-43, allowing the third seeded Spartans to advance to the tournament’s second game in the Championship bracket. They will face the winner of a first-round game between sixth seed Chillicothe IVC and 11th seed Rochester. Those teams would play late Friday. Oly’s next game is slated for 4:30p.m. Saturday, at Normal Community West High School.

Olympia head coach Gerry Thornton told reporters afterward that his team had participated in a pre-Christmas tournament at St. Joseph-Ogden, and as a result, his team’s performance, in his eyes, was not all a coach wants to see in his players.

“We were a little bit sluggish,” Thornton said. “But I thought we got going as the game went on.

“We just played through a lot of foul trouble,” Thornton said, reminding reporters about the contest. Some of his players, like Cremeens and Trevor Strubhar, found themselves in early foul trouble, almost from the opening tip-off.

statefarmholidayclassic.gifThornton did say that, usually, as the tournament like this one continues, players improve their own play to where fouls become less of an issue.

Oly led right from the start, jumping out to a fast 5-0 lead, all five points, including a trey, scored by senior Matt Frahm. Frahm led all scorers in double figures, with 19 points, as he helped Oly to a 17-12 lead to work with after one quarter.

Olympia owned a 27-19 lead at halftime, with a three by Cremeens at the beginning of the quarter and a trey by Pratt with three seconds until halftime to bookend the Spartans’ 10-7 scoring drive in the quarter. Olympia owned a 27-19 lead at the half.

Cremeens had 8 more points by himself in the third quarter, but by the third quarter, EPG had picked up the pace themselves that quarter, behind seven points scored by Codey Funk, and a trey by Luke Roth. But all of EPG’s efforts could only cut Olympia’s lead to 44-32 going into the fourth quarter.

Cremeens and Pratt served as scoring bookends in the fourth quarter as they had in the second quarter, each man contributing a trey – Cremeens at the start of the last stanza, Pratt’s coming with 57 seconds left in the game. A trey from Ryan Augsberger with 5:59 left in the game helped keep EPG close, but they could not catch the Spartans.

Funk and Augsberger finished the night with 14 points apiece and were the only Titans players in double-figures.

Three other Spartans had double-digits by the end of the game. Frahm was followed by 14 from Brady Cremeens, 11 from Matt Flynn, and 10 from Spencer Pratt.

“We’ve been preaching to the kids about making free throws, and out of 24, we made 8,” Quam said. “In the first quarter, we had some crucial possessions.

“We had our opportunities in the first half, and we just kind of dug a hole big enough that we couldn’t get out of it,” Quam concluded. “For a 15th seed, I thought we played pretty admiriably.”

EPG(2-4), seeded 14th in Class 1A-2A, will face the losing team in a first-round game between Chillicothe IVC and Rochester.

Peoria Christian 73, Hartsburg-Emden 44: Peoria Christian, the second seed in the tournament, will advance to the championship bracket’s second round, having dismantled Hartsburg-Emden, 73-44 in the opening round game at Shirk Center Friday.

Although Hartem (3-7) started the game on a strong note – a trey by David Neuendorf putting the Stags up, 3-0 – Peoria Christian answered with baskets by Jake Winkler, Nathaniel White, and Josh Peters, giving the Chargers a 17-7 lead after the first quarter. Neuendorf finished the night as Hartem’s only player to finish in double digits, with 12.

Treys by Billy Molinari and Ben Bordeaux in the second quarter, helped Peoria Christian increase their lead over the Stags at the half to 37-17.

Peoria Christian went on a 10-0 run to start the third quarter, led by Winkler’s scoring the first six points of the half unanswered. White and Billy Molinari followed, with a basket each to round out the barrage, putting the Chargers up, 47-19 with four minutes to go in the third quarter. The Chargers owned a 53-28 lead going into the fourth quarter.

With 5:25 left in the contest and the Chargers up, 59-34, Peoria Christian launched their second scoring streak of the night, with consecutive unanswered baskets by Bordeaux, Ryan Seipp, Nathan Lyons, and Dalton White, extending the Chargers’ lead, 67-35, with 3:15 left in the contest. A deuce by Hartem’s Tarel Stancel at 3:04 halted the Chargers’ surge.

With eight field goals on the night, Winkler led all scorers with 16 points. He was followed in double-digits for the Chargers by Billy Molinari’s 13.

“(Peoria Christian) has a lot of weapons (and) a lot of good scorers,” said Hartem head coach Josh Nauman. “We just weren’t ready for that. They are a lot more experienced than we are and we had a lot of freshmen and sophomores out (on the floor). We just didn’t take care of the ball today.

“We got out-hustled and out-played and we just didn’t give much effort,” Nauman said. “I don’t think our kids believed they could win and they didn’t play hard enough to win.”

Peoria Christian head coach Jay Bruer said complimented Nauman’s team for how they played, but he also explained that his team only graduating just two players still leaves his team with some ammunition to work with.

“We have most everybody back who played last season, including the entire starting lineup from last year, (and) several good players down the bench,” Bruer said. Bruer said his team was able to add depth in that respect, as well as coming off of the Christmas break.

By Steve Robinson | December 15, 2008 - 10:43 pm
Posted in Category: Normal Town Council, The Normalite

Town of NormalNORMAL – Normal Town Council members voted unanimously to pay JQH-Normal Development, LLC, developers of the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center under construction in Uptown Normal just over $1 million for additional costs associated with construction of the Beaufort Street Parking Deck.

The Town’s budget currently includes $808,414 for foundation additions, with an additional $182,997 available for contingency purposes. With their vote, Council also approved an additional $41,961 which would come from bond funds to complete the payment.

City Manager Mark Peterson said no money from the Town’s General Fund will pay for this item.

A total of $808,414 went to pay for foundation revisions to the 500-slot parking deck and the attached walkway leading to the hotel.

There were additional expenses at the site, however, which were unforeseen by the developer, including removal of old foundations during caisson installation and removal of existing railroad communication lines in the area. Installation of electrical service to the structure was also an item JQH-Normal also sought to be reimbursed for.

When the overall project is completed, JQH-Normal will own the hotel while the Town will own Conference Center, Peterson told Council members.

Peterson added that the costs associated with the parking deck “are far less than what (JQH-Normal) has had to absorb (in the cost of the construction).”

Peterson said the Town is still anticipating the hotel and conference center to be operating by either July or August of next year.

Council member Sonja Reece asked Peterson if the parking deck would be ready for public use, were it to be completed before the hotel.

Peterson said as the hotel gets closer to opening, there would likely be increased activity near the deck, such as deliveries of furniture to the hotel, making public use of the parking deck something the public “(shouldn’t) count on.”

This was not the first additional expense related to the hotel construction the Town has had to approve. In November, 2007, Council members voted to reimburse JQH $94,000 after the site contractor inadvertently “removed buried concrete foundations, water cisterns and sanitary sewers that were previously not known to exist.”

Council member Chuck Scott asked Peterson if there was a concern that such expenses like the ones JQH-Normal has been asked reimbursement for have depleted cash from the contingency fund the Town has for expenses related to the construction.

“It doesn’t appear, to me, that contractors (have) abused the contingency fund,” Peterson told Scott.

Also in relation to the Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, Council members unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the execution of a reciprocal easement agreement with JQH-Normal Development, LLC, related to the construction of the Uptown structures.

Peterson said that, potentially, the Town has $250,000 left in its contingency fund for use on the parking deck.

Mayor Chris Koos added, “It can’t be overlooked that we have ample bond funds to pay for this project.”

Conditional OK For Changes At Sugar Creek: Council members unanimously conditionally approved an amended site plan for Sugar Creek Elementary School. The plan included a two-story building addition on the west side of the existing school, and a new loop drive for buses on the north side of the existing building.

Normal’s Unit 5 School Board, with Superintendent Dr. Gary Niehaus present at the meeting, was also seeking an expansion of the existing parking lot adjacent to Towanda Ave. for staff parking and a student drop-off/pick-up location for parents’ use.

Neil Finlen, representing Bloomington-based The Farnsworth Group, the project developer, told Council members the two-story building would give the school “two times the capacity” than it has currently.

Finlen said the key to the project “has to be the traffic on Towanda Ave. A two story structure is more cost effective.”

Sugar Creek Elementary is expected to handle double the number of students it does now with the construction, going from housing 300 students to 600 students by 2010.

Recreation Fee Increases OK’d : Council members unanimously approved a recommendation by Town Staff to increase fees for admittance to the Children’s Discovery Museum and Ironwood Golf Course.

Starting Jan. 1, admission to the Children’s Discovery Museum will go from $4 to $6. Town Staff surveyed similar museums in nearby cities and discovered fees ranging in price from $4.50 at Galesburg’s Discovery Depot to $7.50 at Kohl’s Children’s Museum in Glenview, Ill. to $13.50 at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

“(We need to) make sure revenue keeps up with expenses for (what is) a stellar museum,” Reece said in her supporting the increase.

At Ironwood Golf Course, greens fees will now cost $18 on weekdays, and $22 on weekends. Seniors will now pay $14, up $1 from the previous cost.

EMT Course Participants Recognized: Prior to the start of Monday’s meeting, Normal Fire Chief Jim Watson introduced 10 firefighters who had been involved in training as Emergency Medical Technicians. Normal’s EMT program became necessary after Lifeline Mobile Medics ceased operations in September 2007.

Normal’s EMT program by hiring six new firefighters for paramedics duty. That meant requiring those firefighters to be certified by the State. The six firefighters then had 500 hours of classroom instruction and another 600 hours of duty in emergency rooms and operating rooms.

Watson said EMT classes began in January 2006 and ran through last June.

“We want to acknowledge the firefighters who have reached (obtained their) paramedic (designation),” Koos said. “Thanks for all your dedication and hard work. Our community is better off and will be a safer community to be in.”

Omnibus Agenda Items Approved: Omnibus agenda items approved by the Council included:

• Approval of the minutes of the Council’s regular meeting held Dec. 1, 2008.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Dec. 10, 2008.

• A motion to accept a bid and award purchase of a street sweeper for the Public Works Street Maintenance Division in the amount of $148,775.

• A motion to waive the formal and customary bid process and approve the purchase of a replacement fire engine from the Northwest Municipal Conference in the amount of $374,218.

• A motion to initiate changes to the Zoning Code – Addition of the Main Street Form-based Code.

• A motion authorizing Zoning Text Amendment – Fees.

• A resolution authorizing a supplemental agreement with Chicago-based Cardosi Kiper Design Group, Inc. in the amount of $35,000 plus reimbursable expenses for the Way-finding design and installation specifications, bidding/negotiation, and construction administration phases (Phases 4-6) of the Uptown Branding and Way-finding Project.

• A resolution authorizing contract changes associated with the Firestone sewer extension Phase III Project in an amount not to exceed $165,844.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Mr. Craig Onsrud for the operation of the Ironwood Pro Shop and Private Golf Lessons.

• A conditional resolution partially re-approving the final plat of a subdivision located within one and one-and-a-half miles of the Corporate Limits (Kings Mill Acres Subdivision).

• A resolution approving the second amendment to the Preliminary Development Plan for Ironwood Country Club Apartments Planned Unit Development Plan.

• A conditional resolution waiving the Public Hearing Process and approving a final plat for the Rader Subdivision (1238 Ropp Rd.).

• An ordinance vacating Water Main Easements – Grace Baptist Church.

• A resolution accepting Water Main Easements – Grace Baptist Church.

• An ordinance approving an Amended Special Use Permit for Christ Church, PCA (1301 N. Linden).

• An ordinance amending “An Ordinance Describing and Designating an Area partially within the City of Bloomington, the Town of Normal and Unicorporated McLean County as an Enterprise Zone.”

By Steve Robinson | December 14, 2008 - 5:02 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

Unit 5NORMAL – Grade School students who had their drawings selected for an Ecology calendar and Normal Community West High School senior who had a perfect score on her ACT exam rounded out the “good news” reports provided to Normal’s Unit 5 School Board at that group’s meeting on Dec. 10 at Sugar Creek Elementary School.

Ecology Calendar Artists: Fairview Elementary School Principal James Shaw had the honor of introducing five students will have artwork they created displayed as part of a 2009 calendar put out by the Ecology Action Commission.

The grade-schoolers were among 12 students whose artwork was selected by EAC.

The students present for the meeting received a certificate, presented to them by Shaw, with Board members and family looking on.

The students present for the presentation were:

• Taylor Jones, a kindergarten student at Fairview Elementary. She is the daughter of Matt and Jennifer Jones, Normal.

• Sharika Henning, a fourth grade student at Fairview Elementary. She is the daughter of Destiny Henning, Normal.

• Anna Tulley, a third grade student at Fairview Elementary. She is the daughter of John and Janet Tulley, Normal.

• Colin Fitzgerald, a first grade student at Fairview Elementary. He is the son of Mike and Angie Fitzgerald, Normal.

Unit 5 mapAlso recognized at this event was Trevor Lancaster, a junior at Normal Community West High School. He created a poster in his Communication Art class at Normal West. The design on the poster will be turned into a bulletin board ad. Trevor is the son of John and Judy Lancaster, Normal.

West Student Has Perfect ACT Score: Eder introduced Board members to Cassie Irmeger, a senior at Normal West for the last “good news” item of the night. Cassie, daughter of Edward and Kathryn Irmeger, Normal, scored a perfect “36” on her ACT test.

Cassie’s score puts her in the top one-half of one percent of the nearly 1.5 million ACT tests taken nationally last year. The oldest of four children, Cassie has the future career goal to study architecture and someday live and work in either Milwaukee or Chicago.

She has her college plans narrowed to one of three possible choices, including Southern Illinois University or University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.