By Steve Robinson | December 31, 2012 - 10:38 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

NORMAL – When the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament wrapped up for El Paso Gridley’s girls basketball squad on Dec. 28, the Titans had ended an undefeated streak, but gained a trophy.

First Round — EPG 50, Rock Falls 39: EPG (14-1 at tournament’s end) pushed forward in the tournament’s Girls’ Small Schools bracket, where they were seeded fifth, with a 50-39 win over 12th seed Rock Falls in their first round game played at Normal Community High School on Dec. 26. The Titans jumped out to a 10-2 lead midway through the first quarter on the strength of two baskets each from Chelsea Kessinger and Rebekah Ehresman. Late baskets in the quarter by Jordan Giddings and Bailey Schader helped narrow the Titans lead, but EPG owned a 21-6 lead going into the second quarter.

Rock Falls managed to slow EPG’s point production while doubling their own in the second quarter featuring a pair of baskets and a free throw by Morgan Mammosser, helping to cut the Titans lead in half, 26-13 at the half.

But baskets by Ehresman, Codee Schlipf, and Kessinger, aided by a trey by Jenna Souhrada with 2:23 in the third quarter, gave EPG a 44-29 lead they held onto going into the fourth quarter.

Ehresman led in double-figures for EPG in the contest, with 20 points. She was followed by Kessinger with 12, and Schlipf with 10. Giddings was the lone player in double-figures for Rock Falls, with 12 points.

“We wanted to be on the right side of the bracket,” explained EPG head coach Kyle Bobbit following the Titans’ first victory. “We knew it would be a tough game. Rock Falls is a Class 3A school. We’re pretty small – not as quick as we used to be, so, we have to depend on each other a little bit more and focus from here on out.”

Rock Falls did not stick around to do any evaluation of themselves or grant any interviews after the game.

The win increased EPG’s record to 12-0. Their second round opponent, Rochester, would test the Titans being able to keep that win streak going.

Second Round – Rochester, 41, EPG 38: It could easily be said both EPG and Rochester each won two quarters of the second round contest they played at U. S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington on Dec. 27. But when the final horn sounded to end the game, Rochester had outlasted the Titans. As a result of the loss, EPG was put on a fast track to try to earn a fifth place finish.

Rochester owned an 11-10 lead at the end of the first quarter on the strength a three by Michaela Perry. But EPG roared back on a pair of quarter-opening baskets by Mattie Buchanan, followed by three buckets by Ehresman, including a trey at 3:20 in the period, leading to the Titans’ 23-14 halftime lead.

The Titans held onto that lead throughout the third quarter, although Rochester defenders kept EPG out of the paint for most of the period while, at the same time, registering a tighter offensive showing, including buckets by Laryn Sapetti, Kara Drewenski, and two free throws each from Meagan McNicholas and Drewenski. That offensive output cut EPG’s lead to 29-26, going into the fourth quarter.

A free throw by Sapetti cut EPG’s lead, 29-27, with 7:40 left before Kessinger fouled Perry as Perry was in the act of shooting a three-pointer with six minutes left. Perry sank two of the three, tying the game at 29-all. One more exchange of baskets by the teams would tie the game, 31-31, with 4:37 left. But with three minutes left, Kylie Clemens’s three-point shot would give Rochester a 34-33 lead. From there, the Titans unbeaten streak would become jeopardized.

Sapetti led Rochester (13-4 following this game) in double-digits with 13 points. EPG’s Ehresman led all scorers with 15 points. “El Paso Gridley executes well in the half-court,” explained Rochester head coach J. R. Boudouris. “We needed to keep the ball out of Ehresman’s hands. She’s such a dynamite point guard. I thought, in the first half, EPG did a really nice job of handling the pressure.”

Considering the 48-game winning streak his team has had the last couple of seasons, the loss to Rochester was something his team had not experienced “in the last couple of years,” explained Bobbit. “We got into this tournament to be challenged,” he said. “Rochester is an elite program in the state. They’re on their way back up.”

“This is a learning situation for us,” Bobbit added, explaining that from the Rochester game forward, his team “has a choice – we can either rise up and learn from it or sit back and take a beating.” The Titans last lost before the Rochester game came in January two years ago. The loss also meant moving on the fast track toward a fifth place finish.

Third Round – EPG 62, Brimfield 51: Brimfield held leads of 14-9 at the end of the first quarter, and 28-24 at the half, before the Titans took charge, outscoring the Indians 22-14 in the third quarter, and 16-9 in the fourth quarter. Ehresman and Souhrada each had three treys and Schlipf had two treys in leading the Titans’ charge in their team’s last game of the tournament. Ehresman led all scorers with 20 points. She was followed in double figures by 17 from Schlipf. Brimfield was led in double digits by Kerrigan Dura, who scored 14 points, followed by 13 from Kennedy Dura.

“We came out a little flat today,” Bobbit said afterward. “We talked before this game about coming out with the right attitude today, coming out with a positive attitude. Once we started picking up the pressure and picking up the intensity, things just started to fall our way.”

“We just have to stop making mistakes,” said Brimfield head coach Jim Blane after the contest. “We’ve been successful handling opponents’ presses, so I don’t think that’s our problem.”

Fifth Place Title Game – EPG 41, Pana 28: The outcome of this game later in the afternoon on Dec. 28 may have been for a fifth place trophy, but there was still some sense of pride on the line when the Titans met Pana at NCHS later in the day.

EPG led 16-10 at the end of the first quarter – the only quarter in which Pana would manage to score double digit points. EPG would own a 25-17 halftime edge, as well as a 37-23 advantage after three quarters.

EPG won the game despite registering a shooting percentage of 50 percent to 62 percent for Pana. Ehresman led all scorers in double-figures with 16 points. She was joined in double-digits for the Titans by Schlipf, who scored 13. Allie Schoonover was the lone Pana player in double-digits, pocketing 11 points.

By Steve Robinson | December 29, 2012 - 10:35 pm
Posted in Category: Special Olympics, The Normalite

At 14, Carla Spinks is not real talkative when she meets a new person for the first time. But that may be because the Normal Community High School freshman lets her skills on the basketball court speak for her.

Carla plays on a team called SOAR Orange Crush, formed as one of four teams organized by Special Opportunities Available In Recreation, jointly sponsored by both Normal Parks and Recreation Department and the Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department. In 2013, SOAR will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Carla and her teammates participated in the Ron Knisley Memorial Special Olympics Shootout on Dec. 28, part of the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament. In addition to Orange Crush, the other three teams SOAR brought with them were SOAR Pink Panthers; SOAR Purple Monsters; and SOAR Green Machine. They were four of the 14 teams that participated in this year’s event. The other teams came from agencies that help people with intellectual disabilities, some who brought more than one team. The agencies were located in Peoria, Pekin, Champaign, Springfield, and Jacksonville.

Carla has had previous experience playing softball for the Dirt Devils, a team that is part of the Bloomington-Normal Girls Softball Association (BNGSA), too. She enjoyed that, explained her mother, Christina. But as time went on, Christina explained, Carla felt the competition at that level was becoming too intense for her. Her daughter was seeking a level of the game that, for her circumstances, was enjoyable without competition becoming the over-riding issue.

Having a developmental disability, but wanting to enjoy herself while still seeking to feed her competitive spirit, Carla sought an outlet to help her continue to enjoy the game. Carla’s friend, Bailey Kaiser, had a suggestion: Why not join Kaiser and play in Special Olympics? Carla decided to give it a try.

“It’s pretty good so far,” Carla said. “The part I enjoy about Special Olympics and this team is meeting friends.” Her coach for SOAR Orange Crush is Julie Smith.

SOAR Orange Crush is a mixed team of guys and girls – mixed in ages, too, from high school to late 20s and a little older. Carla said her friends at NCHS do not know she participates in Special Olympics. “They would think it was cool,” Carla said.

Carla has not only been playing basketball since joining SOAR, but also Softball and Volleyball, too.

“She’s playing and having fun,” Carla’s mom, Christina, said.

“Carla has a lot of athletic ability and I think she’s got a lot of room in which to grow as a basketball player,” Smith said. “She just needs some confidence to have those skills come out. It’s been fun to watch that evolve in her.”

“It’s been fun to try to draw her out and get her to shoot more and use the skills that she has,” Smith said. “She’s been one of the most improved people on the team this year.”

Smith explained Special Olympics helps its athletes “by helping them reflect on their abilities rather than their disabilities. It’s nice to have an opportunity where you can do your best and be your best, and have that what everybody sees rather than whatever disability you might have.”

These athletes on SOAR’s basketball teams practice, in the case of SOAR Orange Crush, in particular, once-a-week because a number of the players have jobs, most of them in the service industries. Also, when they do get together for practice, the players on these teams spend plenty of time on game fundamentals. Like any other team, doing that helps them stay sharp. So sharp that Carla and her teammates went 3-1 in the round-robin event.

They may get a few more games in before the season is over, with the goal to try to get to Special Olympics Illinois’ State Basketball Tournament, held at Illinois State University in mid-March. I got the feeling Carla would be happy to get there by the season’s end, too. Here’s hoping she and her teammates, and all of SOAR’s teams, continue having a successful remainder of the season.

NORMAL – The Players from Normal West High reminded Morton High School’s girls’ basketball team Friday that, in order to win, sometimes, you need to watch your back. Although the Potters breezed through 2 ½ quarters of play, the other 1 ½ served as a reminder that some victories come because a team has been battle-tested.

But the reminder was well-heeded, as Morton nearly doubled-up on the Wildcats, 52-27, in a third round contest of the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Tournament Friday. This contest was held at Normal Community High School.

As a result of the victory, the Potters will take on Chicago Morgan Park for a shot at winning fifth place in the overall tournament’s Large Schools Girls Division. That game will begin with a 7:30p.m. tip-off at Normal Community West High School at 501 N. Parkside Rd.

Morton (12-3) seemed to breeze through the first quarter of play, thanks to a game-opening three by Chandler Ryan. That was followed by deuces by Bella Jackson and Jadison Wharram, giving the Potters a 7-0 start before two free throws by Tia Robertson slowed the Potters’ momentum. Kennola Thomas provided the bulk of West’s scoring in the opening period, including a trey at 2:45 and two free throws, at 1:23, having been fouled by Morton’s Emily Schultz. That cut Morton’s lead, 13-7. But Morton would open the second quarter with a 17-9 lead.

A deuce and adjoining free throw by Desiree Evans at 5:20 in the second quarter were the only points the Wildcats would score in the period. With Chandler Ryan, Sarah Livingston, and Abbie Cox leading the charge, Morton outscored West 13-3 in the period, owning a 30-12 halftime lead.

But the Wildcats opened the third quarter with a 9-0 run with a trey and deuce by Ashley Wickenhauser, and deuces by Thomas and Kaiyla Brooks, cutting Morton’s advantage, 30-21. But that was as close as they would come, as Ryan, Livingston, and Schultz added more deuces to their team total.

The Potters owned a 38-27 advantage entering the fourth quarter. In fact, the bucket made by West’s Abby Thompson in the closing seconds of the third quarter were the last points the Wildcats would have in the game. Morton would outscore West, 14-0, in the final stanza.

Ryan and Kaitlyn Byrne were the only Morton players in double figures, with 17 and 11 points, respectfully. No Normal West player achieved double-figures, although Kennola Thomas came close with seven points.

The Wildcats’ early third quarter play showed Morton that Friday’s opponents “had some quality players and they play fairly deep,” Potters head coach Bob Becker said. “They really outplayed us the first four minutes of that third quarter, and really, there was a stretch of three minutes in the second quarter where I thought they outplayed our kids.

“I thought we rebounded better (today) than we did (Thursday) night against Rock Island,” Becker added. “I thought we did a more consistent job on the boards. I thought we could do some things better, but we had stretches of pretty good play.”

On numerous occasions during the contest, Lady Potters defenders did manage to keep the Wildcats from making baskets, boxing them out of the paint. It was a defensive tactic Becker said he was pleased to see, considering that the night before against Rock Island. “(Thursday) night, I thought we were horrible on the boards,” Becker said. “Today, we were more physical and it showed because we kept (West) from getting multiple shot attempts, for the most part.”

“The third quarter was, probably, the only time we played the way that we’re supposed to,” explained disappointed Normal West head coach Angie Codron. “It was nice to see we could play a little bit like that, even if it was just during the third quarter.

“We talk all the time about communication (while on the court),” Codron added. “We weren’t communicating with each other. It seemed as though we were on a different page.”

By Steve Robinson | December 24, 2012 - 7:45 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite

Rex Sligar is not a name some area sports fans will know right away. He’s not a high school coach or an administrator. But if you take in any action at the State Farm Bloomington-Normal Holiday Classic this week, or attend any Illinois Wesleyan University basketball games, chances are you’ve been waited on by Rex. For the last 35 years, he has managed the concessions at Shirk Center.

But during last year’s Holiday Tournament, the seemingly always smiling 65-year-old Sligar was noticeably absent from his post. As Sligar explained it:

“The first day of the Classic, I wasn’t feeling real well. I went to the doctor and they thought it was bronchitis. It turned out to be a heart attack.”

Sligar said while he was recovering from symptoms clearly considered bronchitis, he had a heart attack. He went to the doctor about the bronchitis. His doctor ordered him home for rest. Two days later, he had his heart event.

From the time of his heart event, he was in the hospital for seven days, during which time, a stint was put in. His recovery lasted long enough that he didn’t return to work at the Shirk Center until mid-March. That means folks accustomed to seeing him found him noticeably absent for both the Holiday and McLean County/Heart of Illinois Conference Tournaments, as well as the conference portion of the schedules of IWU men’s and women’s basketball.

“Basically, I missed the busiest time of the year,” Sligar said. In his absence, the concession stand was kept up-and-running by his wife, Andrea; various family members; Matt Blake, who has assisted Sligar for years at the concession stand; and some IWU students. Sligar said, “It was pretty frustrating to miss out on that much activity because you get in such a habit of going down there, and seeing and talking to people.”

Sligar has been talking and serving people for 35 years at the concession stand. Up until October, though, it was a second job. For 30 years, when he was not at IWU, he was a manager in the Audit Department at State Farm. It is thanks to his realtor’s husband, Dave Munro, that Sligar took over the concession stand.

Back in the early 1980s, the Sligars were house hunting and Munro’s wife was their realtor. At that time, Dave Munro was looking to give up running the concession stand. Rex Sligar’s previous job experience included being a restaurant manager. The two men struck a deal turning management of the concession stand over to Sligar.

When Sligar took over, Dennie Bridges was coaching the Fightin’ Titans (as they were known then), and his boss, the athletic director, was Jack Horenberger. Ever since those days, “it has been a great relationship,” Sligar said. “A lot of good relationships have been built at that stand.”

Sligar said he has admiration for the folks who come to the games and support their teams, whether they are high school or the Titans. “They come out and they support their team. They have a good time. They pay a reasonable price to get in and pay for reasonable snacks at a reasonable price,” he explained.

“That was kind of the agreement with Coach Horenberger and Dennie Bridges throughout the years, and what we continue to do,” Sligar said.

With a laugh, Sligar said being down to one job means he now has no reason not to be ready to go and have things in order at the concession stand. He credits Bridges, now IWU Athletic Director; and Assistant Athletic Director Mike Wagner with keeping him informed on upcoming events to be worked.

“The thing about Rex is that he provides a great service for the fans,” explained Dave Oloffson, Holiday Classic vice president. “And it’s not just that he offers a variety of concessions, but he keeps the prices low. That adds a lot to our being able to host our event there.” Oloffson said in making such affordable snacks and goodies available, it also makes The Classic an event that does not come across as though it’s out of the average fan’s price range, Oloffson said.

Oloffson added that, by keeping prices reasonable, Sligar is keeping the Tourney from giving the patrons the feeling they will overspend on goodies the way they possibly could at an event at a large arena.

“Rex understands the audience he’s working with and he always makes sure he keeps his prices affordable. I always appreciate that about Rex,” Oloffson said. “He just understands our event and who’s coming to it.”

Sligar has been down a road he would have liked to avoid traveling, in part, since last year’s Holiday Tournament. But that road didn’t just include medical issues and recovery; It also included the positive adventure called retirement. Now he can look forward to enjoying his time with family and friends, and greeting and serving the many customers who have gotten to know him over the years.

NORMAL – By a 6-0 count, Normal Council members approved a resolution authorizing executing a development agreement with UDC Development, Inc. to build and operate a mixed use building located on the Uptown One site.

The developer, Chicago-based Harlem Irving Properties and Tartan Realty Group, is proposing construction of a Hyatt Place Hotel and upscale apartment building, the front of which would sit on the east end of the Uptown Circle.

Prior to their regular session on Dec. 3, Council members held a work session in which representatives from Harlem Irving Properties and Tartan Realty Group presented plans for a five-story hotel and adjoining six-story apartment complex.

Although the project has a $32 million price tag attached to it, the Town would only have to be responsible for $7.35 million, which would come in the form of $2.7 million from tax increment dollars; $1.7 million from sales taxes; and $3.6 million from the Town’s hotel/motel tax. Those three sets of revenue would help pay for a 20-year general obligation bond the Town would issue to pay for their end of the project.

Under terms agreed to between the developer and the Town, Harlem Irving Properties and Tartan Realty Group would construct, own and operate the building, which would be 165,000 sq. ft. In addition to the hotel, the apartment tower would contain 34 or 35 one- and two-bedroom luxury apartment units. The building would also have a ground floor fine dining restaurant measuring roughly 8,500 sq. ft., along with a day spa connecting the residential tower to the hotel tower.

“This project is a long time in coming,” Mayor Chris Koos said, explaining people have been asking when development on the property, which has been untouched for at least three years by any developers.

Doug Reichl, president of Chicago-based Tartan Realty Group, told Council members construction on the project could begin in April or May and take somewhere between 14-18 months to complete.

Koos said the Uptown Design Review Committee “will get several looks” at the project as it is undergoing construction.

Council member Adam Nielsen was not present at Monday’s Council session.

Electric Bills Coming Down Via Cooperative: City Manager Mark Peterson announced bids had been opened to select a source through which Normal residents served by Ameren Illinois would pay lower rates for their electric service. The Town approved the bid of 4.099 cents per kilowatt hour, submitted by Homefield Energy, a company owned by Ameren.

Residents will still get their electric service through Ameren, Peterson explained, but at the reduced rate provided through Homefield Energy. “We’re very pleased with this,” Peterson told Council members.

He said residents who are Ameren customers would be receiving information in the mail shortly after Christmas, and would be given an opportunity to give written permission to opt out of taking advantage of the Homefield Energy rates, if they so chose.

Company Looking To Turn Waste Into Jet Fuel Here: Representatives from a company that turns solid waste into jet fuel is seeking a location to call home to carry out their work, and the company’s Chief Executive Officer thinks that location is the Twin Cities. Alan Robinson, President and CEO of Paradigm BioAviation LLC, addressed Council members, giving a presentation during which representatives from groups and companies his company has partnered with in this venture were present.

Among the local partners in support of this venture is the Center for Renewable Energy at Illinois State University. The other companies involved are Southern Research Institute and Alabama-based Hensel Phelps Construction Co.

Robinson said his company began the process of converting waste into fuel when he was supervising regional airports in Great Britain in 2006. “This whole thing is about partnership,” Robinson said. He said the Twin Cities is one of a number of locations his group is looking at. Locally, Robinson’s company is looking to locate on 143 acres of land in west Bloomington, which would include the McLean County Landfill. Robinson said the facility would create 700 jobs.

Robinson said it would take 18 months for the plant to be constructed. Among the projected benefits the plant would bring, Robinson’s presentation pointed to included no longer needing a landfill after 2016. The group has been talking to Town officials for the past 18 months.

Robinson estimated between 15 million-16 million gallons of jet fuel would be produced through this process. He added this was not a brand new idea, explaining the British had a process for turning waste into kerosene during World War II. He added about 30 airlines currently are flying on synthetic fuel.

Council member Sonja Reece asked Robinson what items, other than jet fuel would be processed at the new facility. He told her the plant would also process diesel fuel.

Koos asked Robinson whether the venture would be impacted by residents doing their own composting. “If people do their own composting, that’s fine,” Robinson said. “I don’t think we’re going to suffer as a result.”

Robinson told Council members there is currently a plant doing similar work in Vero Beach, Fla., in answer to a question posed by Council member Kevin McCarthy.

Robinson said a way to pay for construction of the project is with a tax-free 20 year bond. Peterson told Council members he knows Robinson’s company will be looking at other locations, in addition to Bloomington-Normal.

Leaders from the two communities – specifically Normal’s Koos and Peterson and Bloomington Mayor Steve Stockton and City Manager David Hales – have had discussions about Robinson’s proposed venture as recently as mid-December, Koos told Council members.

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

• Approval of minutes of the regular meeting held Dec. 3, 2012.

• Approval of Town of Normal expenditures for payment as of Dec.12, 2012.

• A motion to waive the formal bidding process and accept quotes totaling $88,609.02 from Dell for the purchase of computer equipment.

• A motion extending partiticipation in the Diabetes Disease Management Program for one year.

• A motion approving the selection and authorizing Town Staff to negotiate a contract with Wheaton, Ill.-based DK Mallon to perform a grocery feasibility study in Uptown Normal.

• A resolution authorizing mutual termination of an agreement with Chicago Ridge, Ill.-based Resource Management, LLC, and authorizing execution of an agreement with Normal-based Midwest Fiber Recycling for the processing and recycling of materials.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an agreement with Mr. Craig Onsrud for the operation of the Ironwood Pro Shop and private golf lessons.

• A resolution authorizing execution of an intergovernmental agreement for storm water educational services provided by the Ecology Action Center for a period of three (3) years.

• A resolution accepting public improvements in the Patriot Station Subdivision for maintenance.

• A resolution conditionally and partially approving the final plat of Courtyard Subdivision by expedited process (310 N. Greenbriar).

• A resolution authorizing certain taxable allowances to be reportable as IMRF earnings.

• An ordinance authorizing benefit protection leave through the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund and amending Chapter 18 of the Town Municipal Code – Personnel.

• An ordinance adopting the 2012 International Residential Code, and amending Section 11.4-4 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code.

• An ordinance adopting the 2012 International Building Code, and amending Section 11.4-2 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code.

• An ordinance adopting the 2012 International Fire Code, and amending Section 11.5-1 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code.

• An ordinance adopting the 2012 International Mechanical Code, and amending Sections 11.2.3, 11.2.4, and 25-16-4 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code.

• An ordinance adopting the 2012 International Fuel Gas Code, and amending Sections 11.2.6-1, 11.2.7-1, and 11.2.7-2 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code.

• An ordinance adopting the 2012 International Property Maintenance Code, and amending Section 11.4-5 of the Town of Normal Municipal Code.