Champaign, IL

A view of Champaign from above (see wider view).

Champaign is a city located in Champaign County, Illinois. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 67,518. The mayor is Gerald Schweighart, whose term will expire in 2007. The city is notable for sharing the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with its twin city of Urbana.


The First Presbyterian Church of Champaign [1] founded 1850 in the city's historic 'Sesquicentennial Neighborhood', is the oldest church in town.

Champaign was founded in 1855, when the Illinois Central Railroad laid its track two miles west of downtown Urbana. Originally called "West Urbana," it was renamed Champaign when it acquired a city charter in 1860. Both the city and county name were derived from Champaign County, Ohio.


Champaign is located at 40°6"47"N, 88°15"40"W (40.112981, -88.261227).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 44.1 km2 (17.0 mi2). 44.0 km2 (17.0 mi2) of it is land and 0.1 km2 (0.04 mi2) of it is water. The total area is 0.12% water.

Champaign shares a border with the neighboring city of Urbana; together the two cities are often referred to as Urbana-Champaign, Champaign-Urbana, or Chambana and are often referred to locally as the "Twin Cities". The two cities are the site of the largest campus of the University of Illinois. Champaign, Urbana, and the bordering village of Savoy form the Champaign-Urbana Metropolitan Area.


As of the census of 2000, there were 67,518 people, 27,071 households, and 12,452 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,534.4/km2 (3,974.6/mi2). There were 28,556 housing units at an average density of 648.9/km2 (1,681.0/mi2). The racial makeup of the city was 73.16% White, 15.62% African American, 0.24% Native American, 6.83% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.94% from other races, and 2.19% from two or more races. 4.03% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 27,071 households out of which 22.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.4% were married couples living together, 9.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 54.0% were non-families. 36.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the city the population was spread out with 17.8% under the age of 18, 31.7% from 18 to 24, 26.7% from 25 to 44, 15.4% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 102.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $32,795, and the median income for a family was $52,628. Males had a median income of $36,574 versus $27,186 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,664. 22.1% of the population and 8.1% of families were below the poverty line. 13.0% of those under the age of 18 and 5.6% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.


In addition to the University of Illinois, Champaign is also home to Parkland College. A Kraft Foods plant (and adjacent AC Humko plant) and Herff-Jones (formerly the Collegiate Cap and Gown) form part of the city's industrial base.

The city also features a large technology and software industry mostly focusing around research and development of new technologies. The Research Park, located in southern Champaign and backed by the University of Illinois, is home to many companies including iCyt (a biotechnology company), the Illinois Natural History Survey, the Illinois State Geological Survey, Motorola, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Phonak, Power World, and Science Applications International Corporation. Numerous other software and technology companies also have offices in Champaign including Wolfram Research, Sun Microsystems, Intel, IBM, Amdocs, and Volition; and the University of Illinois is the alma mater of Founder and former CEO of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) W. J. (Jerry) Sanders, graduated from the U of I's Electrical Engineering Department (now Electrical and Computer Engineering Department) in 1958. The United States Army Corps of Engineers maintains the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign.

Partial list of mayors

  • Dannel McCollum (1987-1999)
  • Joan Severns (1979-1983)
  • O.B. Dobbins (1913-1914)

Landmarks and districts

Champaign City Building

The Champaign City Building.

The Champaign City Building serves as the City Hall and is a recognizable landmark. As one of the most visible buildings in the downtown district, it serves as a city symbol, with its likeness featured on the city seal. The ornate decoration, unique architecture, and copper roof distinguish the building.

The Tower on 3rd

The newly-renamed Tower on 3rd (formerly Quality Inn, University Inn, Presidential Tower) is located in the Campustown district and is over twenty stories high. A hotel until 2001, it currently houses student apartments and several University of Illinois offices, including the Office of Continuing Education. The Tower and a massive orangish-reddish apartment complex a few blocks away form a scenic duo in the central of Campustown with a city feel to it.

Champaign Park District

Champaign is known for its extensive city parks. Most houses in the city don't have sizable backyards by typical U.S. standards; instead the city has zoned several large city parks to create common areas for recreation and relaxation of its citizens under the Champaign Park District.


The downtown area of Champaign was recently the target of a largely successful revitalization effort designed to bring more businesses into the area and return the downtown district to the center of city life. In addition to efforts which restored the facades on many of the historic buildings, additional construction projects including restaurants, bars, shops, office space, and condominums, have recently increased the size of the downtown area, while still maintaining the distinct turn-of-the-century architecture associated with the city. The new growth in downtown Champaign has coincided with the larger growth of the "north Prospect" shopping district on the city's northern boundary, similar in a smaller scale to the sprawl famous with areas like the Chicago suburbs, Atlanta, and Houston. The growth in the north Prospect area relies in part on leapfrogging, moving out to the countryside and developing more remote farm land that eventually connects to the main development. Given the overwhelming success of such suburban shopping areas nationally, new development within any city center represents an alternative to the dominant movement out and away from the cities.

Boardman's Art Theatre

Boardman's Art Theatre, which shows critically acclaimed independent and foreign films, was built in 1921 as the Park Theatre. It has since undergone extensive remodeling and was equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

The theatre is the only single-screen movie theater still in existence operating daily as a movie theatre in Champaign-Urbana. The Historic Virginia Theatre, which hosts Roger Ebert's Annual Overlooked Film Festival, is also single-screened. However, it only opens for special showings and events.


Champaign is served by I-57, I-72, I-74, two railroad lines, and the University of Illinois operated Willard Airport (CMI). The local bus system, which is supported by the taxpayers of the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) and the University of Illinois, serves Champaign, Urbana, Savoy, and surrounding areas.

The former Illinois Central Railroad line " now part of the Canadian National system " runs north to south through the city. A spur line from the Canadian National line provides service to several large industries, including two large food processing plants, on the west edge of Champaign and two grain elevators in outlying communities to the west. The Norfolk Southern operates an east to west line through Champaign. The NS line connects industries in eastern Urbana to the Norfolk Southern main line at Mansfield, Illinois, west of Champaign. The line now operated by Norfolk Southern is the former Peoria & Eastern, later operated as part of the Big Four (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad), New York Central, Penn Central, and Conrail systems, being sold by Conrail to Norfolk Southern in 1996. The line was originally built be the Danville, Urbana, Bloomington and Pekin Railroad. This short-lived entity became part of the Indianapolis, Bloomington and Western Railway.

Amtrak operates four daily passenger trains through Champaign using the Canadian National line " one train connecting Chicago and New Orleans and the other running between Chicago and Carbondale, Illinois. Greyhound Lines and Illini Swallow bus companies also serve Champaign. In 1999, a newly designed intermodal transportation center, aptly named Illinois Terminal by historic reference to the defunct electric interurban rail line that once ran through Champaign, was completed and serves as a central facility for intercity passenger rail and bus services as well as the MTD's local bus network.

Famous people from Champaign

  • Bonnie Blair, olympic gold-medalist speed skater
  • Hum, rock group
  • Alison Krauss, bluegrass singer
  • Ludacris, rapper
  • Lewis Hastings Sarett, inventor of synthetic cortisone
  • REO Speedwagon, rock group
  • George Will, political columnist
  • Roger Ebert, film critic

Points of interest

  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • University of Illinois Arboretum

Newspapers and Weeklys

  • News-Gazette
  • Daily Illini
  • Buzz Weekly
  • The Hub Weekly
  • The Booze News