Monthly Archives: May 2009

Brewster visits the Normal Dog Park and has a ball

The Nielsen’s don’t own a dog.   

The closest thing to our family having a dog (and that’s close enough) is Brewster. 

Brewster is a very big, likeable dog from Mundelein, who introduced me Sunday to the Normal dog park.  The dog park is one of Brewster's favorite stomping grounds when he visits Normal.

Brewster is a very big, likeable dog from Mundelein, who introduced me Sunday to the Normal dog park. The dog park is one of Brewster's favorite stomping grounds when he visits Normal.

 

Brewster is Amy and Rick’s dog from Mundelein.   Amy and Rick are my in-laws and parents of my baby nephew Ryan.

My daughter Bekah tosses a tennis ball to her aunt and uncle's dog Brewster at the Normal dog park on Sunday morning.

My daughter Bekah tosses a tennis ball to her aunt and uncle's dog Brewster at the Normal dog park on Sunday morning.

Brewster’s big, playful, and likes to run.  Our yard isn’t big enough to contain him, so when he’s in Town he visits the Normal dog park at Maxwell Park.  The dog park sits near the Town’s horseshoe pit and our disc golf course and is accessible at the driveway entrance to the park at Parkside and Gregory.  

Inside the dog park, Brewster chased a tennis ball with Rick, Amy, and my daughter Bekah, who would love to have her own dog. (Sorry Sweetie, ain’t gonna happen.)   And he ran along the fence line looking in the distance at early morning softball games being played at Champion Fields.

Even a big dog like Brewster can stretch his legs at the Normal dog park.

Even a big dog like Brewster can stretch his legs at the Normal dog park.

The dog park is a great place to work out the hound and socialize.  The place is clean, well maintained and nicely landscaped.   A dog park can’t have enough trees.    There are also benches for owners to sit and relax.    Clearly, dog owners are picking up after their pets and there seems to be plenty of room to run even for big dogs like Brewy.    

Sunday morning found one other dog owner at the park, a gentleman with a four-month old puppy that reminded us of Benji.    Good thing little Benji was on the other side of the fence in another part of the park because Brewster would have had him for a snack.

The dog park also has a drinking fountain for people and animals.  The dog dish is at ground level. 

A wet spot on the concrete near the dog dish turned into a mud puddle and that’s where Brewster decided was a good place to lie down.   It meant Brewster had to take a little bath before he was readmitted into the Nielsen home.

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Filed under Parks and Recreation

Bloomington’s trash is ending up along Normal’s streets, and you’re paying for its disposal

It sure didn’t take long.

When the City of Bloomington recently changed its bulk waste disposal rules prohibiting rental companies from placing debris along the curb for weekly pick up, guess where Bloomington apartment owners started taking their stuff?  

Not to the landfill, where it should go.

No, they’re taking it to Normal.

That’s right.  Bloomington’s stuff is ending up along our streets.  And if you live in Normal, you’re picking up the  tab.

A resident of Frankin Avenue contacted me Wednesday after watching someone deliver a pick-up truck full of junk to a curb in front of an apartment building on his street.

I was sitting on my porch this morning, and a red Dodge pick-up truck pulled up in front of 701 Franklin Ave.  loaded with mattresses, wood , and tables and proceeded to dump them in front of the above apartment.  I asked the guys what they were doing and they said they had permission to dump the trash there. That the city would pick it up, the problem is trash will now sit there until next Tuesday.  And the last time this happened the drunks piling out of the bars thought it would be cute to set them on fire.  I can’t understand why the city would allow this.  Make these apartment owners haul to the dump and pay the fee to dump.  All it does is trash the neighborhoods.

 

I agree.   I hope Town staff  called the property owner and asked who gave the guys in the red pick-up permission to dump in front of their building  (assuming somebody actually did give permission).

I don’t have any problems with the scavengers driving by and picking something of value off the curb.   I admire their ingenuity.  That’s the definition of recycling.   I do have problems with anyone who takes junk to a neighboring community to avoid paying someone to have the junk taken to the landfill.  

    

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Filed under Bulk waste disposal, Uncategorized

Toshiba will discover the citizens of Normal aren’t Boring

Everybody’s seen the TV commercials featuring Mac and PC.

The computer advertising world shifts to Normal, Illinois this week for a casting call for a web-based advertising campaign that will pit residents of Normal against citizens of Boring, Oregon in a friendly competition designed to help Toshiba sell laptop computers.

A May 14 Pantagraph news story explained the concept:

“The genesis of the idea is Toshiba makes laptops around the way people use them,” said Aron North of Young & Rubicam Brands advertising agency in Irvine, Calif. “This brings real people in real situations from fun towns with great personalities.”

Ron Smith, vice president of marketing for Toshiba said Normal was chosen because it “offers an interesting mix of people and represents everyday people.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to attend either Tuesday at Medici’s or Wednesday at the Normal Theater to meet with the producers and find some creative way to explain how a laptop will help me achieve my hopes and dreams.   

Both casting calls run from noon to 8 p.m.

If nothing else, I’ve always been fascinated with advertising and marketing campaigns, and it will be interesting to see what Toshiba has up their sleeve.  And will it help us acheive the same kind of marketing notariety that Peoria achieved with that age old question: “Will it play in Peoria?”

I’m also curious to see who else shows up.  And will some Bloomington residents try to pass themselves off as Normalites to appear on a commercial?  

Plus, I’ve had some good luck lately entering contests.

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Secretary LaHood says the “perfect project is a multimodal project”

I never particularly cared for the moniker “multimodal transportation center” for the planned Junction Center to be built on Uptown Circle immediately west of the Children’s Discovery Museum.

Sure, the name’s descriptive, but there was something about it that sounded bureaucratic.    It just doesn’t roll off the tongue.    So, we came up with Junction Center.   MMTCrender1

People still refer to it as the “multimodal transportation center” because it will be home to Amtrak, Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System buses, intercity buses, cabs, shuttles, bikes, and pedestrians.   Oh yeah, and cars.  

Now I’m going to suggest that we throw out the name Junction Center and simply call it the Normal Multimodal Transportation Center, with heavy emphasis on the magical word, “multimodal.”

The reason is something Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said at Friday’s televised appearance on C-SPAN at the National Press Club.  Secretary Lahood was asked what the perfect project is for a new $1.5 billion discretionary transportation grant program called TIGER.

Without hesitation, LaHood said “the perfect project is a multimodal project.”   There you have it.  

Of course, he went on to mention that the funded projects will be “of national significance” and he discussed the need to invest in the nation’s ports, but I think I’ve heard the administration and Congress use the term “multimodal” so many times that there’s got to be some stimulus money somewhere to get our  incredibly shovel-ready Uptown Normal project going, soon.

City Manager Mark Peterson attended a news conference Friday with Governor Quinn, who is requesting the General Assembly pass a capital bill with $400 million in funding for high speed rail.    That would allow the state to begin receiving a portion of the $8 billion in stimulus funding set aside for high speed rail projects.  

The General Assembly session is winding down.  Rep. Dan Brady is working hard on our behalf.

Let’s hope there’s some more money for the Junction, er, I mean the multimodal transportation center.

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Filed under Illinois politics, Transportation Center, Uptown Normal

The future of Uptown One: Can One Main deliver? Or is is time to look for a new developer?

When the Normal Town Council voted last month to move Commerce Bank into another temporary facility, I noted there was an “elephant in the room” — the status of the bank’s permanent home.

At the end of the discussion, I asked whether anyone could say anything to make me feel confident that we will see steel coming out of the ground on the dormant Uptown One construction site any time soon.

After a moment or two of awkward silence, City Manager Mark Peterson gave it a good shot.   I applaud him for answering my question, but I have to admit that it did not make me feel a whole lot better about One Main’s financing prospects.

Listen to my question and Mr. Peterson’s answer at the 34- to the-37 minute mark in the May 4, 2009 meeting.

We will reach a point where, when they’ve exhausted all options and then we’ll have to take a step back and see what options we have.   But I do want to jsut say on their behalf that I know they’re  working very, very  hard to get the project moving again.  They have a tremendous investment already, and, not only with what they’ve already done in terms of construction., but their own time involved in the project.  So, there’s no group that wants to see it move forward more than they do.  I’m still confident they’ll deliver. But If not, at some point, probably in the fairly near future, we’ll have to sit down and find out exactly where they are, maybe in a public meeting such as this…..We’re still excited about it, confident, and hopeful they’ll deliver.” 

Can One Main deliver?  It's time to ask whether this project is going to come out of the ground.

Can One Main deliver? It's time to ask whether this project is going to come out of the ground.

I hope so, too.   But I have to admit my patience is beginning to wear thin regarding the lack of progress on Uptown One .  In fact, I question whether the developers have the ability to pull it off.    They are visionary, well intentioned, and likable.    They have a track record of quality mixed use development in Champaign.  

There’s a reason we have stuck with them and rooted for them to pull themselves out of a situation they did not create.  

Still, I can not let my personal feelings for them or their project get in the way of reality and what’s best for Uptown.

In recent weeks, the Town sent One Main a letter informing the developers that they are in default of the redevelopment agreement which required the building to be nearly finished by now.

A May 5 Pantagraph story about Illinois State University leasing office space in the new JSM building at North and Fell provided some hints about where One Main is in their quest: 

Meanwhile, developers of uptown’s other major project, Uptown One, still are trying to find financing.

One Main Development of Champaign started work in 2007 on the six-story building that would include retail, office and condominium space, but financing for the $34 million project broke down in September 2008 amid the financial turmoil. Work now is stalled.

Company President Mike Royse said the company now is hoping to take advantage of a new private bonding option offered through the federal stimulus package for the building on land stretching from the roundabout to Broadway.

Because it is a new idea, Royse said it’s taking some time to pull the process together. He hopes bonds could be issued in 60 days.

When I read that story, I wondered whether the 31,000 square feet of space being leased by the university in the JSM building at $500,000 per year would have been leased in Uptown One.   In fact, several months after One Main broke ground in Sept of 2007, ISU signed a letter of intent to lease 20,000 square feet of office space in Uptown One, Two and Three.

While I remain hopeful that something can be put together, I now have to ask the question:   How much longer do we wait?   

As my level of skeptism rises, I also feel obligated to ask how much longer can we afford to wait?   Can we afford to miss another entire construction season?   Is this project worth waiting for indefintely?    Is this year already lost, regardless? 

Am I being unrealistic?   Am I too impatient?   Am I missing something?

I don’t think we can afford to slow the momentum Uptown, especially when we are on the verge of seeing the Marriott Hotel and Normal Conference Center opening.  The  685-space College Avenue Parking Deck was constructed with the idea that we would have  lots of new retail and office space around the circle and along Constitution Boulevard.

As I look at all of the space between the deck and the circle.   It is all prime redevelopment area.  

Sometime in the next few months, the council needs to sit down and review where we’ve been Uptown over the past 10 years and look ahead to where we’re going.    

A major part of the plan is in jeopardy.   

I’m motivated only in my desire to see Uptown development succeed.   It must succeed. 

I’m ready to sit down and look at our options.

Maybe we can begin by inviting  One Main to sit down with the council and respectfully ask them to explain to us why the council, the Uptown community, and the citizens and taxpayers of Normal should  keep waiting.

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Filed under Development, Illinois State University, One Main, Town Council, Uptown Normal

The votes are in, and it’s the Normal CornBelters

I could have broken the story on this blog last week and ended all of the speculation and anxiety.  

The reporter that’s left in me wanted to.   Instead, I sat on the news.

When I received the call last Thursday morning that the name I nominated won the “Name the Team” contest, I was stunned.    

Surely, I couldn’t have been the only one who nominated that name.    Right?    Wrong.  

Corn Belters was my favorite of the two names I entered in the contest.   It’s a  name that matches the geography around the ballpark as well as around the community, county, and state.    It’s a name that can easily be marketed in combination with Normal outside the area.   For me,  it conjures up good feelings of playing 17 years on the mostly rural diamonds of the Corn Valley baseball league and playing for the WJBC Cornybelters fastpitch softball team many years ago.

But it was a name that I quickly ditched for something new and different when I thought it was unpopular.

I voted for Corn Belters twice during the tainted first election.  The first time I voted, it was running at 6 percent support.  The second time I voted, the Corn Belters had zero percent.   Zip.    I was beginning to settle for the Nutz.

That’s when I knew something was wrong.    Fans of the Coal Bears correctly smelled a rat.  

I was pleased when the owners restarted the voting.    The new system worked very well.   Voters had to type in a code, discouraging computer aided or spam voting.   Yeah, it would have been nice to see instantly how your favorite name was faring in the poll, but not posting the results made for more drama.  

A Christian-based sports organization ran the election.   You can’t get anymore credible than that.

Instead of a million votes, we ended up with a few thousand.   That seemed about right.

I voted for the Camel Backs.   Turncoat.

At least my son voted for the Corn Belters.

And the Corn Belters came out on top,  by a pretty good margin as I understand it.

Last Thursday, when Normal Professional Baseball’s Steve Malliet asked me on the telephone if I was the Adam Nielsen he knew, I laughed.   The owners really didn’t know who nominated the names. 

When it sunk in I  immediately recognized that there was no way I could accept the prize.   Unless I wanted to be  — as someone aptly put it — “blogged to death.”  

No, I sure didn’t want that fate.   I might be slow sometimes, but I’m not Nutz.

I served on the committee that attracted professional baseball to Normal.   As a council member I voted to hire a consultant to speed up the process when time began to run out.   I voted to approve a one-time Town contribution of $1.5 million to for parking and infrastructure to make the stadium deal work.   I was an advocate for this project from the very beginning.    And there was absolutely no way that I would accept the prize.

Just to double check my thinking, I called my wife.   At Monday’s announcement, I joked that Dayna was my one person ethics committee.    I could have predicted how she reacted.   Without missing a beat,  Dayna shouted into the phone:  “There’s no way you can accept the prize.”   

I laughed again, relieved.  

That’s what happens when you have two former reporters in the family.   Reporters can always smell blood in the water.   I wasn’t going give myself the kind of self inflicted wound that gives people reasons to gripe.

Ultimately, the community voted to select the name.    And the community ought to benefit.

Dayna suggested Unity Center for the suite.   I thought it was an excellent idea.   Unity kids live in the neighborhood and probably won’t be going to many games.   This will give them the opportunity to experience a “luxury suite” at a professional baseball game.   I hope they have a great time and all get a souvenir from the game with the $100 gift certificate at the team shop.

My daughter suggested giving away some of the tickets to people who have cancer.   The Community Cancer Center is 10 years old.   There are many children of cancer patients who need a respite from the stress of serious illness in their families.

The Baby Fold was an easy one.   The Baby Fold does unbelievable work for children and families in our area. 

Big Brothers/Big Sisters — a no brainer.   Those tickets represent 24 fun nights out.   Special Olympics?   Same thing.      

The point of this is simple.  One of the beauties of baseball is that it is an accessible game.   Minor league baseball is  inexpensive, clean family entertainment.   I’m  confident the Normal CornBelters will run an outstanding, community-oriented business.   

There’s no question: Professional baseball in Normal will be a huge hit

I am thrilled to be a minor footnote in this story.

GO NORMAL CORNBELTERS!

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Normal’s baseball team naming saga ends Monday, or will it?

At 4 p.m. inside the place best known for cheeseballs and beer, Normal Professional Baseball LLC will announce which nickname racked up the most votes in a contest that produced more than its fair share of water cooler talk.  IMG_1645

The winning nickname, logo, and marketing campaign will be announced at an event at Pub II on Monday afternoon.   The person who nominated the winning name will recieve a prize package that includes four season tickets for the 2010 season, as well as free rental of one of the suites for a game, and some team merchandise.

The team will begin play about a year from now in the yet-to-be-constructed $12 million multi-purpose facility on the east side of the Heartland Community College campus on Raab Road in Normal.

The announcement comes ten days after polls closed on the the second round of on-line voting that included locally nominated names like the Nutz and Coal Bears, as well the CornBelters, CamelBacks, and Fellers.   Team owners threw out the results from the first round of on-line voting and restarted the balloting when it became clear that hundreds of thousands of votes were being cast by computer programs. 

I am planning to be there for the announcement and for the cheeseballs.

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Filed under Baseball