Club Reports: KAMS, Red Lion, T-Birds, Illini Inn (Champaign-Urbana)

This article is primarily for myself. It’s meant to chronicle my youth during my college years at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Due to low fares from Orlando, I flew into Indianapolis rather than Champaign, rented a car and then made the two hour drive over to C-U.
This area along east-west running Green Street is called “Campustown” and was a shopping area for students without cars. Most of the small buildings have been subsequently razed since I lived here, replaced with multi-story apartment buildings with retail on the ground floor.
A view of Campustown in January, 2010 from the Blog archives.
The north-south running Wright Street during this past Friday’s rainstorm. The street itself is in Champaign, Illinois while the sidewalk and bus shelter on the right are in Urbana, Illinois. Most of the main campus of the U of I is in Urbana but there are also classroom buildings on the Champaign side. The football Memorial Stadium and basketball/concert building Assembly Hall (now State Farm Center) are in Champaign.
The Alma Mater statue has been greeting students from around the world for generations. The phrase on the statue reads “To Thy Happy Children Of The Future, Those Of The Past Send Greetings”. It carries a completely different meaning now that I’m someone from the Past compared to when I was a young Child of the Future studying here.
View of the Quad and the Auditorium building on this rainy Friday. The Quad was always beautiful in September and May but sorry, most of my memories here are of snow, wind and freezing temps.
As a Finance major, many of my classes took place here at David Kinley Hall…..
…..or here at what was called the Commerce West Building then and Wohlers Hall now. If you donate enough money to the University, you can get a building named after you. I looked in my bank account and am pretty sure there won’t be a King Bob Hall here anytime soon.
Inside Com West, one of the lecture halls where I attended numerous classes over the years. One of my favorite classes had a Professor who during his lectures would suddenly state, “This is an Exam question”. And he would say the question and give the answer. And sure enough, the Final Exam for that class would be made-up of only those the questions he announced during those lectures. A key to that class was to always show-up!
Also in this building, one of the many similar classrooms where I had classes such as Statistics, Business & Technical Writing, Fundamentals of Insurance, Fundamentals of Banking, etc.
Now to chronicle my residencies during the 4 years at the Big U.
Freshman Year: Townsend Hall, a dormitory, in Urbana.
Sophomore Year: A basement apartment on the lower right in Urbana.
Junior Year: A 15th floor apartment in the Century 21 Building in Champaign. During my year there it contained a hotel on the lower floors, apartments above that and then up on 20, a bar/lounge and on 21, a restaurant. This building was originally opened as the Champaign Hilton hotel. I was really “movin’ on up” that year!
Senior Year: A very nondescript apartment along Green Street.
OK, now for some bars! One of the most popular Campustown bars was called Boni’s and was located on that bottom floor in Lando Place. It’s long gone.
Another good one, on 6th Street, was Second Chance Saloon. I think it burned down but there are high rise apartment buildings here now.
In this Blog archives photo from January, 2010, this is view of what was built there after the fire but this was all torn down for the high rises.
The only venue I found open on Friday was Murphy’s Pub along Green Street in Champaign. It’s been here for decades but I don’t recall ever going in there during my student days so I didn’t go in Friday either.
KAMS was an institution for frat boys and sorority girls and was just a block off campus. They sold out and there’s another one of those high rise student apartment buildings there now.
But we went to their new location Friday night and it was CLOSED. Even though Summer Session 1 (called Summer A at Florida universities) was in progress, the town was completely dead! Looks like it’s Saturdays only this semester at KAMS. Unlike Florida, there is no requirement for students here to attend at least one summer semester. You’d never find Gainesville looking this dead.
The Red Lion in Champaign was in business when I attended the University and it hasn’t moved and it looks like it hasn’t changed either.
Still home to live Rock bands just like back then, it too was CLOSED.
As a 17-yr old Freshman, I had my first beer at Thunderbird’s in Urbana. I think it’s a restaurant now but it too was CLOSED. I was the proud owner of a bright orange T-Birds “OLY 30” tee shirt advertising that Olympia Beer had arrived in C-U and glasses could be had here for just 30-cents each!
It’s adjacent The Canopy Club, currently another place for live bands and sometimes DJ’s. But sadly, it was CLOSED. DJ’s never had much of a role in Champaign-Urbana nightlife; this was a live Rock band town and I believe it still is.
Back in Champaign, the Illini Inn is in the same location it was back in the day but completely rebuilt with modern decor. But like everything else Friday night, CLOSED. To be fair, it was Memorial Day weekend and music festival Movement was happening in Detroit and Summer Camp music festival with DJ John Summit (USA) on Friday night was happening in nearby Chillicothe, IL.
Champaign is home to Ebertfest, an annual film festival created by the late film critic Roger Ebert. Ebert was from Urbana and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Other famous U of I alum include Jack Welch, Shahid Khan, Hugh Heffner, King Bob, Suze Orman, Jesse Jackson Sr., Dick Butkus, DJ Green Velvet and many more.
I had planned to visit the current studios of WPGU FM107.1 but ran out of time. I had worked there as a news reporter during my college years as well as DJ’ing on their Dormitory Broadcast Service. That’s the logo we used back then.
A few quiet moments in the Illini Union waiting for the storm to pass over last Friday. Our bar and club visits were a bust for sure but getting to revisit the campus and my old homes made the trip worthwhile. A good time was had by…..ME!