Mia Za’s Cafe – Champaign, IL

28 03 2009
  • 629 E. Green Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 352-2697
  • Website
  • Menu
Mia Zas Cafe on Green Street in Champaign, IL

Mia Za's Cafe on Green Street in Champaign, IL

Another Saturday.  Another Saturday working.  Actually, that’s been rare the last year and very welcome.  I was back in Champaign for game two of a three game set between the University of Illinois and Michigan State University’s baseball teams.  Once again, lunch time rolled around and I went in search of good food.

Yesterday, I ran into some trouble finding businesses open on Green Street, but I did notice a cafe open near the end of the stretch of businesses.  I was craving an Italian beef and knew this place wouldn’t have it, but today, I just wanted a sandwich, so I headed back.

Mia Za’s Cafe is on Green Street near the corner of Green and Sixth.  The cafe is one of three locations in Big Ten communities.  The other two stores are in Madison, WI (University of Wisconsin) and Ann Arbor.  If the name sounds sort of familiar, but not really, they used to go under the name Za’s Italian Cafe.  The Ann Arbor store is located at 615 E. University. Read the rest of this entry »





Niro’s Gyros – Urbana, IL

28 03 2009
  • 1007 W. University Avenue
  • Urbana, IL 61801
  • (217) 328-6476
  • No Known Website
  • Menu
Niros Gyros on University Avenue in Urbana.

Niro's Gyros on University Avenue in Urbana.

The Italian beef craving set in again.  I’m just not going to go back to Illinois and not get one.  I left Illinois Field on my lunch break and headed towards Green Street to get lunch like I always do.  Problem is, when I got there, everything was closed.  U of I is on spring break and everything closed up with them.  I panicked a little.  Where else was I going to go?  I was driving around and I came up to University Avenue.  Then it clicked.  There was a little Greek place up the road where I could get my Italian beef.

Niro’s Gyros is located on University near Lincoln in Urbana.  Niro’s has several locations in the Champaign/Urbana area and there are even stores that I know of in Bloomington, IL.  I have no idea why Greek places tend to have Italian beef in Illinois, but it’s fairly common.  Places like Niro’s are almost cookie-cutter to the extent that you know what’s on the menu before you get there.

There’s not much to this Niro’s location.  There’s a drive thru which I should have used and a walk up window.  There’s no seating inside.  They have some concrete tables outside, but that’s it.  When you walk in, there’s just enough room for a menu board and a window. Read the rest of this entry »





Illinois Field – Champaign, IL

27 03 2009
  • 1605 S. Wright Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 333-3630
  • Website
The view from the press box at Illinois Field in Champaign, IL

The view from the press box at Illinois Field in Champaign, IL

I freakin love baseball.  I played growing up.  I played a couple years in college.  I can’t get enough of it.  I’ve never been much of a football person, but I love when baseball season comes around.  I know…that’s weird.

Now that I work in broadcasting, spring is my favorite time.  I love it when I get a call to shoot a baseball game.  Yes, chances are it’s going to be cold and rainy, but that’s ok with me.  I got a last minute call to make the trek to Illinois for three games in three days.  The first two days were U of I vs. Michigan State University baseball.

Illinois Field in located on Wright Street right at the boundry for the cities of Champaign and Urbana.  It’s just down the street from Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium.  The grassy lot next to the field is actually used for overflow parking during football season. Read the rest of this entry »





Geovanti’s Bar & Grill – Champaign, IL

21 03 2009
  • 401 E. Green Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 344-4600
  • Website
  • Menu
Geovantis Bar & Grill on Green Street near the campus of the University of Illinois

Geovanti's Bar & Grill on Green Street near the campus of the University of Illinois

It’s no secret that the one food I crave when I go home is the Italian beef.  It just doesn’t exist in Mid-Michigan.  While it’s obvious you can find the sandwich in Chicago, most people don’t realize there are a handful of places downstate that offer the sandwich.  They’re usually a Chicago-style place that specializes in sandwiches and pizza.  Lucky for me, there was not one, but two places right down the street from Huff Hall where I happened to be working.

Geovanti’s Bar and Grill is on the corner of Green and 4th Streets.  Think of Green Street like Grand River Avenue.  It’s right in the middle of a lot of off campus housing and it’s a short walk from campus of the U of I.  There are a number of bars and restaurants on a four block stretch of road.

I walked in to Geovanti’s just as they were opening at 11:00 AM.  There are two entrances.  There’s the entrance on Green, but there’s also an alley entrance.  I was on the phone and not paying attention, so I walked around to the front entrance.  Read the rest of this entry »





Huff Hall – Champaign, IL

21 03 2009
  • 1206 S. 4th Street
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 244-9755
  • Website
Huff Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois set up for gymnastics

Huff Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois set up for gymnastics

Even if you’ve never been to the University of Illinois and you’ve never heard of Huff Hall, you are quite familiar with a term that was coined during the days when the IHSA boys state basketball championships played in the gym.  It’s actually pretty fitting that I’m writing about this right now.  The term “March Madness” is a term that was trademarked by the IHSA after a court battle that also gave the NCAA a right to trademark the term.  The IHSA still claims to have invented the term and they own the sole trademark to the phrase “America’s Original March Madness” which is how they bill their tournament these days

The phrase “March Madness” was first used in 1939 to describe the state basketball championships that were held at Huff Gymnasium.  The layout and design of the building made it loud and when the place was full, it was deafening.  If you’ve ever watched an IHSA small schools game, you know how loud it can get.

Huff Hall was built in 1925 as a multi-purpose gymnasium named after George Huff who was the school’s athletic director from 1895 to 1935.  It’s a 4,500 seat arena with a permanent upper deck and retractable bleachers in the lower area.  Like Michigan State’s Jenison Fieldhouse, Huff Hall is the home of the U of I’s volleyball, wrestling,  and gymnastics teams. Read the rest of this entry »





Jenison Field House

9 02 2009
  • 248 Jenison Fieldhouse
  • East Lansing, MI 48824
  • (517) 355-1610
  • Website
The entrance to Jenison Fieldhouse on MSUs campus

The entrance to Jenison Fieldhouse on MSU's campus

I wish my first visit to Jenison Field House was thirty years.  When I walked in to the building for the first time, the first and only thing I could think was, “I bet this place was loud.”  I knew of Jenison before I moved to Lansing.  Who hasn’t?  I loved watching the old clips of Magic Johnson in East Lansing.  I can only imagine what the place was like.  Sure, it’s huge, but those big cavernous ceilings had to make the place loud.

Jenison Field House is on the campus of MSU just off Kalamazoo Street.  It’s just a block or so from it’s replacement, the Jack Breslin Student Events Center (review HERE).  It’s a huge building.  At first, I was wondering how they would even do basketball, but figured it out after seeing the wrestling set up. 

Jenison was opened in 1940 and was the home to Spartan basketball until 1989.  The facility is now used for Women’s volleyball, gymnastics, wrestling, and indoor track & field as well as a practice facility for a number of MSU sports.  There is permanent seating in an upper deck that runs around the entire facility.  The surface is a multi purpose rubber which is used for track and field.  When other events are held in the Field House, a curtain is dropped to divide the arena into a smaller area and portable bleachers are brought in to fill out the empty spaces.  Read the rest of this entry »





Crisler Arena

18 01 2009
  • 333 E. Stadium Blvd
  • Ann Arbor, MI 48104
  • (734) 998-7236
  • Website
Crisler Arena on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor

Crisler Arena on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor

When I got the e-mail asking if I was available to shoot men’s basketball at Crisler Arena, I have to admit, I was a little pumped.  Growing up in the far away land of Central Illinois, Ann Arbor was this far away, mystical place we saw on TV every Saturday afternoon.  I would have been in junior high during the Fab Five years and there were wars at my house over college basketball.  My brother was a Michigan fan while I rooted for Duke.  This was also about the time Nike was coming out with “authentic” apparel.  My brother had the Jalen Rose jersey and matching shorts.  I had a number of Duke shooter shoots.  As far as we were concerned, Crisler Arena was one of those places we’d never go to, but would have given anything, at that time, to see a game there. 

Well, I got my chance 10 plus years later.  Crisler Arena is on the campus of  U of M in the shadow of Michigan Stadium.  My first impression was, “wow.”  That’s not a good wow.  That’s a “I can’t believe this” wow.  The place is so run down it doesn’t look fit for a basketball program with the history and aura of the Michigan Wolverines. The seats were rusted, they were small and low to the ground.  From a broadcast point of view, Crisler is one of the worst stadiums I’ve ever worked at.  I’ve never been to Big Ten stadium where all of the cable had to be run from the truck.  After being there five minutes, all the expectations I had as a kid were squashed.  I’m really glad my brother hasn’t been there. Read the rest of this entry »