Assembly Hall – Champaign, IL

22 12 2008
  • 1800 S. 1st St.
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 333-5000
  • Website
An empty arena at the Assembly Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois

An empty arena at the Assembly Hall on the campus of the University of Illinois

Until last year, even though I lived near it all my life, I had never been to Assembly Hall in Champaign for a basketball game. Heck, until earlier this month, I had never even been to a college basketball game tha wasn’t for work. The same is still true in Champaign.

I spent another Saturday night in Illinois working. Assembly Hall isn’t the most modern arena in the Big Ten, but it does have it’s charm. The arena looks like a giant UFO. It must be a thing with Illinois arenas. I used to go to events at Assembly Hall when I was younger. We went to many Ice Capades in Champaign, but like I already mentioned, last year was the first time I had been there when the basketball floor was set up.

When you walk in to Assembly Hall, you come into a concourse level. You have to go up a series of ramps on the outside to get to the main gates. From the concourse level, you can enter the arena and either go up or down. Most of the day of sales tickets are up. Like most college basketball arenas, season ticket holders get the lower bowl while every one gets up in the B and C levels. There are portable bleachers in each end zone. The side near the tunnel and Illinois’ bench is for family and the band. The other end is for the Orange Crush (Illinois’ version of the IzZone.) Read the rest of this entry »





Memorial Stadium – Champaign, IL

8 09 2008
  • 1402 S. First St.
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 333-3630
  • Website
The south endzone of Memorial Stadium filled with fans as the Fightin Illini take on the Panthers of Eastern Illinois

The south endzone of Memorial Stadium filled with fans as the Fightin' Illini take on the Panthers of Eastern Illinois

I finished up my weekend in Champaign at the newly renovated Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Illinois.  Like many other Big Ten schools, U of I decided they needed luxury suites and to do so, they chopped their upper deck seating on the west side by quite a bit.  The benefit for me is one of the best press boxes I’ve ever worked out of and a relocation of the camera platforms from a basket hanging off the upper deck that I had to climb over the rail to get to to platforms at the back of the concourse which is much safer and comfortable. 

From the outside, the home of the Fightin’ Illini doesn’t look much different.  The architects were able to keep the integrity of the building.  Something that couldn’t be done a few hours north at Soldier Field in Chicago.  Inside, the west side is a totally different building.  When you first walk in to the stadium, you come to a huge open concourse area.  Plenty of room for the thousands of fans who show up on a Saturday afternoon to walk around comfortably.  The walls are lined with concession stands and souvenir kiosks.  If your seats are in the lower bowl, you can easily get to those seats from where you enter.  When the stadium was redesigned, they made it possible to walk from one side to the other which was something you couldn’t do just a few years ago.  Read the rest of this entry »





Blues BBQ – Urbana, IL

5 09 2008
  • 1103 W. Oregon St.
  • Urbana, IL 61801
  • (217) 239-9555
  • Website
  • Menu
Blues BBQ on Oregon St. in Urbana, IL near the University of Illinois

Blues BBQ on Oregon St. in Urbana, IL near the University of Illinois

I made a mistake.  I had planned on going to grab a couple slices of pizza after I got off work from a pizza joint that gets rave reviews.  Instead, I chose to go get BBQ.  That in itself is not a bad choice.  The restaurant I chose was the bad choice.

I noticed Blues BBQ last night when I went to Manolo’s (review HERE) to get pizza.  I almost went there then because it *looked* like a neat place.  When I left Memorial Stadium tonight about 8:00, I headed back to the area to get some Q. 

Blues BBQ is located in a little shopping district on the campus of the University of Illinois.  From the outside Blues looks like an upscale BBQ place.  It’s not the roadhouse you think of when you usually think of BBQ.  This should have been a huge warning sign.  When you walk in, again, you’re met with an upscale, eclectic feel.  There are a handful of tables in the dining room.  Most of them share seats with long, red benches.  There’s a bar that runs along the windows which is about the only thing in here that you would find in a typical BBQ place.  Read the rest of this entry »





Monical’s Pizza – Champaign, IL

20 05 2008
  • 103 W. Kirby AveMonical's Pizza
  • Champaign, IL 61820
  • (217) 356-4243
  • Website
  • Menu

Monical’s Pizza is a small chain located primarily in Central Illinois with a few locations in Indiana and one in Wisconsin.  I grew up eating at locations in Bradley, IL and Watseka, IL.  Monical’s was always the hang out after football games and where we went with large groups before hitting the movies.  While in Champaign for the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Outdoor Track Championships, I got reacquainted with this childhood memory. 

Monical’s actually got it’s start in nearby Tolono, IL.  The restaurant on Kriby Ave. is one of the new Big Tomato locations which has a bigger menu than just the pizza Monical’s has served since the late 1950’s.  I didn’t actually get to eat in the store.  The manager on my job ordered a bunch of pizza for dinner one night since we weren’t able to get a real dinner break.

Monical’s is a super-thin crust and crispy pizza.  There are actually spices added to the crust which give the pizza an interesting flavor.  Usually on thin crust pizza, you get a pretty bland crust.  With Monical’s, you actually have to wipe your hands clean because you end up with spices on them.  Instead of being cut into wedges, the pizza is cut in tiny squares.  Just something elset that makes them stand out above the usual pizza pie.  The sauce is a thin red sauce with a little bit of a kick then cheese and toppings are piled on.  Where I’m from, Monical’s pizza can’t be eaten without their signature sweet and tart salad dressing.  I always thought it was wierd, but people actually have the waitress keep the salad dressing on the table when the pizza came, but people just love this stuff.  You can actually buy bottles of the dressing on their website.

Over the years, it kind of seems like the pizza has changed and not in the good way.  The location I always used to go to in Bradley is now closed and the other locations just don’t have the same feel to them as this one did, so I’ve kind of been turned off to their pizza.  I’ve eaten at many of the locations and every now and then it’s just good to go back to an old favorite.  That’s how this weekend felt when I was unintentionally scarfing down a whole pizza.  It’s not usually my first choice any more, but when it’s put in front of me, I can’t help but wolf it down.