Introduction to Champaign, Illinois
Nestled amidst the prairies and farms of America’s heartland, The Illinois city of Champaign is still only a little more than a 2-hour drive from Chicago (135 miles to the north). Serviced by three interstate highways (I-57, I-72, and I-74), Champaign is abutted by its "twin City" Urbana, with which it shares the flagship campus of the University of Illinois. Champaign is also home to Parkland College. Other nearby cities include Decatur (48 miles to the southwest), Bloomington (54 miles to the northwest), and Springfield (85 miles to the southwest). Situated in the eastern part of the state of Illinois, Champaign is only about 45 miles from the Indiana border and about 120 miles west of Indianapolis.
Founded in 1855 and incorporated as a city in 1860, Champaign was originally called West Urbana but had its name changed by legislative act at the time of its incorporation. The year 1867 saw the founding of the University, established as a Land Grant university for the state of Illinois. A university town centered in a fertile farm area, Champaign has an economy anchored by agriculture, medicine, and education, although the city also maintains a burgeoning high-tech and software industry focused on research and development of new technologies. In 1985, Champaign hosted the first Farm Aid concert at the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium.
Arts and Culture in Champaign
Champaign's downtown area recently underwent a successful revitalization effort which increased the size of the downtown area while maintaining its distinctive turn-of-the-century architecture. Some of the city's downtown attractions include:
- Boardman's Art Theatre: Built in 1921 as the Park Theatre, this site features critically-acclaimed independent and foreign films
- Historic Virginia Theatre: Dating back to the 1920s, the theater features an ornate interior and an elaborate Wurlitzer pipe organ
- Orpheum Children's Museum
- Verde Gallery
- Springer Cultural Center
Other area museums and cultural sites include:
- University of Illinois Arboretum
- Anita Purves Nature Center
- Champaign County Historical Museum
- Early American Museum
- John Philip Sousa Library and Museum
- Krannert Art Museum & Kinkead Pavilion
- Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum
- Spurlock Museum
- The Museum of Natural History
- Wandell Sculpture Garden
- William M. Staerkel Planetarium
Collegiate sports take center stage in Champaign due to the presence of the University of Illinois Fighting Illini athletic teams. All of the University's teams belong to the Big Ten Conference and participate in the NCAA's Division I sports. Sports represented by Fighting Illini teams include football, baseball, basketball, cross country, golf, gymnastics, tennis, track and field, and wrestling.
Fans of Minor League Baseball do not have to go outside the confines of the city of Champaign to catch some games. The Champaign Homers are an independent team playing in the Upper Mississippi Baseball League (UMBL). A virtual smorgasbord of major league sports action can be found within a two and a half hour drive north to the city of Chicago, which houses the following teams:
- Major League Baseball: Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs
- National Football League: Chicago Bears
- National Basketball Association: Chicago Bulls
- National Hockey League (NHL): Chicago Blackhawks
- Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA): Chicago Sky
- Major League Soccer (MLS): Chicago Fire
- Major League Lacrosse (MLL): Chicago Machine
Chicago is also home to the Chicago Rush of the Arena Football League (AFL) and the Chicago Rockstars of the American Basketball Association (ABA).