Thursday, February 24, 2011

IHSA Looking for Sites for Football Championship Games in 2013

The Illinois High School Association needs a new home for the state football championships on Thanksgiving weekend starting in 2013. Changes in the Big Ten means U of I will need their field on even years.

SIU's new arena would provide the warmest location for the annual match-up. How about some regional cooperation between Carbondale and Williamson County tourism bureaus? It would take all the rooms in both counties to handle this, but it could be a big boost for late fall tourism.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Private Sector Stepping Up with Tourism Packages for Region

A new website, will soon be offering Southern Illinois vacation packages to tourists. The Southern has a brief version of the story up tonight. A full version is expected tomorrow.

This looks intriguing. Look forward to more tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Heart of Egypt Gains While Region Loses Population

The 2010 census shows deep Southern Illinois, the 17 southernmost counties of the state, losing 3,190 residents from 2000 to 2010.

Williamson, Jackson, Franklin, Massac and (surprisingly) Pope Counties all grew over the decade. The other counties shrank. Alexander and Pulaski counties at the tip lost 2,539 residents, continuing a long decline. Jefferson County and Mount Vernon which has stumbled economically a 3 percent decline in population. Saline County lost

The following are the county names, 2000 population, 2010 population and the amount and percentage gained or lost.
  • Alexander - 9,590 > 8,238 = (1,352) or -14.1%
  • Franklin - 39,018 < 39,561 = 543 or 1.4% 
  • Gallatin - 6,445 > 5,589 = (856) or -13.3%
  • Hamilton - 8,621 > 8,457 = (164) or -1.9%
  • Hardin - 4,800 > 4,320 = (480) or -10.0%
  • Jackson - 59,612 < 60,218 = 606 or 1.0% 
  • Jefferson - 40,045 > 38,827 = (1,218) or -3.0%
  • Johnson - 12,878 > 12,582 = (296) or -2.3%
  • Massac - 15,161 < 15,429 = 268 or 1.8% 
  • Perry - 23,094 > 22,350 = (744) or -3.2%
  • Pope - 4,413 < 4,470 = 57 or 1.3% 
  • Pulaski - 7,348 > 6,161 = (1,187) -16.2%
  • Randolph - 33,893 > 33,476 = (417) or -1.2%
  • Saline - 26,733 > 24,913 = (1,820) or -6.8%
  • Union - 18,293 > 17,808 = (485) or -2.7%
  • White - 15,371 > 14,665 = (706) or -4.6%
  • Williamson - 61,296 > 66,357 = 5,061 or 8.3%

17 County Total - 386,611 > 383,421 = (3,190) or -0.8%

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Who Gained, Who Lost? Census Data in for Illinois

Details will be available within the next 24 hours for better population breakdowns, but there's what the U.S. Census Bureau offers up right now.

Click in the top right corner of the graphic to take it full screen and make is readable.

State Approves Rules for STAR Bonds

The new destination development planned for Marion passed a new milestone last week with the adoption of formal rules by the state to create and oversee the development of the STAR Bonds District.

The Illinois Department of Revenue proposed rules last year. A department spokesman told the Southern Illinoisan last week the Joint Commission on Administrative Rules approved them last Wednesday.

The district allows for a portion of sales taxes generated by the planned retail and entertainment complex be used to offset development and construction costs.

"The rules seek to assure job creation by requiring that the Marion STAR bond project be a destination development that draws people into Illinois from other states - otherwise you are just moving jobs around in Illinois," Klemens said. "The rules seek to assure that the project will be a true destination development with the power to draw visitors from Indianapolis, Memphis, Nashville (Tenn.) and beyond," he said.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kokopelli's Renovations on Course with Clubhouse

The newly renovated and expanded restaurant at Kokopelli Golf Club — Koko's — has opened to rave reviews.

The grand staircase is gone, and the bar which awkwardly stood out on one side of the dining area, has been moved to the old pro shop. The pro shop has moved downstairs to the former main entrance.

"Golfers wanted a place where they could go that wasn't in the middle of the dining room," Events Coordinator Mark Sutton said. "That almost doubled our seating capacity and made us more flexible because we're able to divide it off for different things."

A wood floor covers the space originally open for the building's main staircase. That brings diners close to a picturesque view of the golf course and neighborhood.

The moves are all part of a rehabilitation and expansion of the course facilities and housing development by the new owners Green Grass Group. In addition, work is underway on an extension of Champions Drive southward from the clubhouse to Halfway Road at Rent One Park.

Late last year, the Marion City Council, officially changed some of the street names around the area of The Hill development. Halfway Road now stops at the base of The Hill at 17th Street. Champions Drive will run up the hill, past MidCountry Bank, Fairfield Inn, and the west side of Rent One Park before entering Kokopelli and heading up to the clubhouse.

As part of the name changes, the city also dropped Fairmount Homes Drive from the list of street names, replacing it with Morgan Avenue, which now includes the new overpass over Interstate 57 and runs to Halfway Road, where it becomes 17th Street, in honor of the barbecue bar and grill at the intersection.

For more information about Kokopelli check out their website,

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Friends of Bald Knob Cross Win in Court

A federal judge in central Illinois accepted a magistrate's recommendation against the claims of a northern Illinois atheist who sued over a $20,000 tourism grant for the restoration of famous Bald Knob Cross near Alto Pass, Illinois.

The Friends of the Cross organization received a $20,000 state grant in their $300,000 fundraising campaign to restore the badly weather-worn landmark.

More than $500,000 has been raised and spent over the last two years to restore the 111-foot tall cross, first built in 1959 and covered in 1963.

More on the cross can be found online at

Senate Memorializes Father of Illinois Wine Industry

The Illinois Senate passed a resolution today honoring Guy Renzaglia for his role in developing the state's modern wine industry. State Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Nashville, introduced Senate Resolution 35 Tuesday.

Renzaglia died three months ago on Nov. 4, 2010, at his home in Mahomet, Ill. He was the founder of Alto Vineyards at Alto Pass, the oldest of the modern-era wineries in Southern Illinois.

The Senate resolution includes the following history.

WHEREAS, Guy Renzaglia enlisted to serve his country during World War II and finished first in the Officer Candidate School in the Army Air Corps; he served with distinction during five years in uniform, and, like many of his peers in the Greatest Generation, he returned home and attended college on the GI Bill; and

WHEREAS, Guy Renzaglia, the son of Italian immigrants, was an accomplished athlete and scholar and a member of the George Washington University Hall of Fame; he earned his bachelor's degree at GWU and his master's degree in physical education at the University of Minnesota; he subsequently earned his second master's degree in psychology and his doctorate in counseling psychology; and

WHEREAS, Guy Renzaglia had a vision to provide support to underserved persons; he applied his determination and wisdom to develop the Rehabilitation Institute at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, making it one of the few universities in the country at the time to provide services for the blind, deaf, and persons using wheelchairs; and

WHEREAS, Through Guy Renzaglia's strength and charisma, the Rehabilitation Institute became a nationally acclaimed program which trained more than 1,000 professionals in rehabilitation and mental health services; and

WHEREAS, Guy Renzaglia retired from SIU-C after 23 years of service; at the age of 60, he started a partnership with two friends, Ted Wichman and Skip Cosgrove, and began a vineyard and winery later known as Alto Vineyards; and

WHEREAS, People from across the globe have come to southern Illinois to sample the brilliant wines and warm hospitality of Alto Vineyards, seeing and tasting for themselves the labor of love which Guy Renzaglia passed along to his son, Paul Renzaglia, as well as a love for life and people which is evident in every delicious sip; and

WHEREAS, Alto Vineyards has served as the model for dozens of other wineries and as the birthplace of the wine industry in Illinois, which now boasts some 90 working wineries and hundreds of acres of vineyards, and brings Illinois national respect as a wine-producing region enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year; and

WHEREAS, Our hearts are heavy with his loss, but we rejoice in the time he shared in our lives; we are comforted by the knowledge that Guy Renzaglia's heart will never leave the fertile and beautiful rolling hills of southern Illinois, the wonderful people of southern Illinois, and the SIU community; therefore, be it

RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE NINETY-SEVENTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that we mourn, along with his family, and friends, the passing of Guy Renzaglia; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we affirm that his spirit remains a living part of us all and that his family and friends will love and forever miss him; and be it further

RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution be presented to the family of Guy Renzaglia as a symbol of our sincere sympathy.

State Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, filed a similar resolution, HR51 in the Illinois House yesterday.

Bradley, Bost Introduces Bills Affecting Tourism

UPDATED with additional bills

Two Southern Illinois lawmakers have introduced four bills that could impact tourists and the area's tourism industry should they get lawmaker approval and the governor's signature.

State Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, has introduced the first three, and state Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, the fourth one.

House Bill 1154 would exempt the Red Cross from paying bed tax at local hotels when the rooms are used for official purposes during disaster relief. The Red Cross isn't named directly, but is referenced as a distaster relief agencies incorporated by the United States Congress.

House Bill 1389 is a short appropriations bill authorizing $300,000 for the Illinois Department of Transportation to prepare a study for a new interchange on Interstate 57 just north of Benton at Petroff Road. This bill most likely won't pass as written, but the language could be added to one of the main appropriation bills later in the session. These aren't fully developed until the end of the legislative session.

The third bill isn't tourism-related directly, but would benefit tourists and local residents alike. House Bill 1392 would prohibit local units of government from issuing ticket quotes for law enforcement officers. Communities such as Cairo and Ullin, and even Williamson County, are becoming notorious for speed traps along I-57. I'm not saying that those agencies are using quotas, but Cairo especially could use more law enforcement inside their city limits rather than harass interstate travellers crossing the bridge from Missouri.

Bost's bill, House Bill 303 would amend the State Finance Act to create the Grow Illinois Jobs Fund that would allocate 2 cents per gallon of any existing tax on wine (other than cider) to be deposited into the new fund to promote the grape and wine industry in the state. The money would be split between the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity home of the Illinois Bureau of Tourism which has supported wine promotion in the past.

Bost's 115th District includes the largest concentration of wineries in the state, including the dozen wineries on the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail and at least another half dozen in Union and Jackson counties. State Sen. David Luechtefeld, R-Nashville, has introduced Senate Bill 1285, a Senate version of the same legislation.

Over on the senate side, state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, has co-sponsored Senate Bill 1337 introduced by John M. Sullivan to create a hunting season for river otters.

State Sen. John O. Jones, R-Mount Vernon, has introduced Senate Bill 77 that would amend the criminal code to exempt military re-enactors from restrictions prohibiting the sale, manufacture, purchase, possession or carrying of specified vintage weapons under certain conditions.