CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The Champaign Central Maroons varsity football team is cleared to play a game on its own field.
The Champaign City Council voted Tuesday night in favor of amending an agreement with the high school that forbade varsity football games from being played at McKinley Field. Although the junior varsity team could play games there, the varsity team was limited to using the field for practice only. For years, their “home games” were played at the football field of crosstown rival Champaign Centennial.
The Maroons football players wanted to experience a home game that actually felt like home. That wish was granted by a 5-3 vote from the City Council.
“They brought it to us, and I was like ‘Well, it’s a short amount of time, but we’ll see what we can do,'” said Champaign School District Superintendent Dr. Shelia Boozer.
Both the School Board and City Council agreed to let the Maroons play one time at McKinley Field. But it came with a lot of heated debate from neighbors. They posted signs for and against the game in their yards.
Neighbors who were against it were worried about noise, lights and parking.
“I’m absolutely against it,” one neighbor said. “When it all started, they said there would be no varsity games there.”
Officials tried to address those concerns by making it a Saturday afternoon game.
Councilmen Michael Foellmer was one of the three city council members to vote against the amended agreement. He said he felt things moved too quickly and while the amended agreement allows for one game, he felt like he was making a decision about what could happen with future games.
“I’m really disappointed, so unfortunately, I cannot support this,” Foellmer said.
On the other side, Mayor Deb Feinen said she got a lot of optimistic emails.
“People who are willing to give it a shot, that they understand that this is something that could help to create community,” Feinen said.
Dave Wilson lives near the field and he supported the amended agreement to allow the game.
“I think it’s a beautiful field to go to waste, to only do JV and practice,” Wilson said. “I’ve always enjoyed it and when I was in high school many, many years ago, they played varsity games there and I didn’t think it was a problem then.”
Two others who live near the field came to the city council meeting and ultimately swayed Councilwoman Vanna Pianfeti to vote in favor.
“The two individuals that spoke this evening convinced me that we need to think about what the community is willing to give a little bit,” Pianfeti said.
Boozer said she can’t wait to tell her students the news.
“I can’t wait to see the look on their faces and to hear it and their families,” Boozer said. “This is something that our boys have been wanting to do.”
Champaign Central’s coach said he and the players are pumped. This is what they had been hoping for all along.
The game at McKiney Field is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sept. 24