CHAMPAIGN, Ill., (WCIA) — “Friday Night Lights” looked a little different on Saturday afternoon for Champaign Central’s varsity football team.
It comes after months of heated debates between the community, the school board and city council.
The team typically plays on Centennial’s football field.
The process of getting the game approved has divided neighbors for months, and after Saturday, there are still mixed feelings.
Kara Cochran, a neighbor near the field, said she was against the game initially, but is impressed with the city’s response to traffic flow.
“My biggest concern was, the street I live on is very narrow, and if parked on both sides of the street up and down, fire trucks wouldn’t be able to get through,” Cochran said.
City employees and parent volunteers worked to control cars and fans.
People could only enter the surrounding streets with a permit showing they lived nearby. No one was allowed to park in front of houses or driveways.
Alison Davis, a parent volunteer, helped direct traffic.
“What we are doing is telling people that are coming here for Central’s game, to go ahead and park in the Champaign Central lot, and then there’s a shuttle bus that brings them to the field,” Davis said.
Fans could also park at the Champaign Country Club and walk or bus over. Only visiting fans could park in the parking lot at McKinley.
“Most people have been really understanding and are just really excited to be here for this historic game at McKinley Field,” she said.
Dr. Shelia Boozer, Champaign School District’s superintendent, said they wanted to work with neighbors and mitigate concerns.
“We’re just so happy and excited for our boys because this is a great day. A great day of collaboration and community unification,” Dr. Boozer said.
Students said Saturday’s game felt more important than other games they’ve normally played at Centennial. One student said at school this week, teachers went through rules and expectations.
“It was just not to be extravagantly loud, parking too, we had to get dropped off on the curb and walk up,” Emma Konstanty, a Central Student, said.
Even though Cochrane said she wasn’t for having games there before, she said she’d be open to something similar in the future.
“I would probably support something to this extent, maybe annually,” Cochrane said. “I still don’t believe the infrastructure in the neighborhood can handle the big, big, big crowds.”
When asked if they were looking at playing more games at McKinley in the future, Dr. Boozer said she was focused on Saturday’s game and happy they were able to play.