U. of I.’s athletic house in need of a cleaning

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 9.22.48 AMFrom the Saturday, Aug. 22, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Thursday was Campus Move-In Day for incoming freshmen at the University of Illinois. Over the next several months that will be followed by Campus Move-Out Days for big names in the school’s athletic department.

At least, that’s my suspicion.

And, honestly at this point, probably Illinois’ best hope.

Anyone who knows me online, in real life or through this newspaper column knows about my passion for U. of I., from which I graduated in 1998. If you cut one of my wrists, it will bleed orange. If you cut the other, it will bleed blue (both Illini and Cubbie). I love my alma mater.

But I’m disappointed in it. I’m frustrated with it. And I’m not alone.

I want to see Illinois get its house in order. And in regards to its athletic department, that may require completely cleaning it, as in recent months its revenue sports programs have metastasized from vexing underachievers into full-blown embarrassments.

This past March in a piece for CBSChicago.com, I wrote that, “In a perfect Illini world, Tim Beckman would roll to a Rose Bowl next January and John Groce would follow up with a Final Four run in March. But as any University of Illinois fan knows all too well, we don’t live in a perfect Illini world. Instead, we live in the one created three years ago by athletic director Mike Thomas. And right now, it’s in a world of hurt.”

Five months later, that’s become an entire universe.

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Chicago’s suburban poaching a push at best for Illinois

aonFrom the Saturday, Aug. 8, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

With the announcement that Kraft will uproot its headquarters from Northfield to the Loop, Chicago clearly has established itself as Illinois’ Big (Mac and) Cheese when it comes to attracting business these days.

But for our state, is this trend of corporations decamping from suburbia to for Chicago’s soaring skyscrapers just a hunk of Swiss?

As in, it has a bunch of holes?

Last week, following the Aon Center lease agreement signed by the recently merged Kraft Heinz, Chicago Tribune columnist Melissa Harris decreed this “The Decade of the City,” writing, “The suburbs are so over.”

Harris went on to list 34 reasons why the Windy City is blowing up, including the recruitments of Motorola Mobility and Sara Lee from Schaumburg and Downers Grove respectively, as well as Walgreens’ talks last year to uproot its HQ from Deerfield to Chicago.

That corporate flirtation wasn’t consummated, but plenty of others have been. Since 2007, at least 46 companies based in the suburbs have relocated part or all of their operations to Chicago gobbling up 3.4 million square feet of office space, according to data from real estate firm CBRE.

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There’s more than Lolla in Chicago this August

AirShowFrom the Saturday, Aug. 1, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

It’s Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago.

Traditionally, that means hordes of hipsters, soaring temperatures and a blanket of sweltering humidity have rolled into town usually accompanied by an entourage of torrential downpours.

This year looks like it may be no different – although, hopefully the rain gets lost on the way.

But either way, August in Chicago offers much more than just the big music extravaganza in Grant Park. So, if you’re taking a trip to the city this month, here are a few additional options that might be music to your ears.

Saturday & Sunday: Taste of Latin America

Now in its third year, the Taste of Latin America again brings fare both eclectic and the exotic to the Windy City in a culinary celebration of the Southern Hemisphere.

Held from noon to 10 p.m. both today and Sunday on West Armitage Avenue from Central Park Avenue to Avers Street, you’ll find everything from fish panades and empanadas to Brazilian sausage and fried plantains.

For more information, visit chicagoevents.com.

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Wisch List on the air …

LOGOFINAL2Last Friday afternoon, my pal Michael Carpenter — filling in for my other pals, Jeremy Werner and Lon Tay — had me on as a guest for ESPN Radio’s Tay & J Show in Champaign-Urbana to talk Cubs baseball, Illini basketball and football and U2 (yep, U2).

Quick roundup: So far my expectations have been exceeded by the Cubs —and U2! — while my expectations aren’t particularly high for Illinois on the gridiron or hard court and

If you’d like, you can listen to the segment just by clicking here.

Olympic-sized questions still loom over Chicago

Chicago-2016From the Saturday, Sept. 25, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Come next summer, while Brazil is strutting its scantily-clad stuff down in Rio during a steamy Carnival-themed Opening Ceremony for the 2016 Summer Games, Chicago will find itself sitting out in the cold.

Just figuratively, hopefully.

However, if you agree with the critics of the Windy City’s failed bid to host the 2016 Olympics, perhaps it’s for the best that we’ll just be chilling.

Chicago Tribune business columnist Phil Rosenthal argued as much last weekend when he wrote that the bad news was that we didn’t get the Games, while the good news was that we didn’t get the Games.

“Whatever Chicago felt about six years ago when International Olympic Committee voters quickly ousted it from finalist contention, ultimately selecting Rio de Janeiro, imagine if they had actually chosen this city,” Rosenthal wrote forebodingly. “The legacy of Olympics for hosts is that of unneeded venues, debt and tightly focused short-term economic boosts that are hard to discern long-term.”

Rosenthal did acknowledge that Chicago 2016 undoubtedly would have been a point of civic pride, a temporary engine for job creation, exciting for many and profitable for a few, but argued that the Summer Games also would have effectively served as a pair of cement shoes for a cash-strapped city just trying to keep its fiscal head above water.

Now, I was a proponent of Chicago 2016 and still believe the Games would have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and an opportunity to promote this beautiful city in a way that no global ad campaign ever could. But at the same time, I don’t disagree with Rosenthal.

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Summertime scorecard: Some winners, some losers

Lou2From the Saturday, July 18, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

Some of today’s sports figures deserve greater recognition (Lou Henson) and some don’t (Pete Rose). Some local sports executives are worthy of big kudos (Theo Epstein) and some aren’t (Mike Thomas).

And, as you might expect, I have some thoughts about it all.

Just Lou-Do it

Sometimes it seems like much of Illini Nation has forgotten that the University of Illinois’ basketball program was in existence prior to B.S.

That’s “Before Self,” not the other thing you were thinking.

But this week it was refreshing to find that an 18-year-old U. of I. sophomore who wasn’t even born when Lou Henson retired back in 1996 is leading the push on campus to honor the 83-year-old hoops legend.

Sam LeRoy – a Champaign native and a member of the 50-person U. of I. student senate – says he’ll soon introduce a resolution to name the renovated State Farm Center’s court in honor of Henson, the winningest coach in school history.

“I think the greatest impact this will have is to connect Fighting Illini fans to Lou Henson for years to come,” LeRoy told the Champaign News-Gazette about the nonbinding proposal. “I think it’s fair to say he was the single most impactful coach in basketball history, not only because of what he did on the court, but because of what he did off the court in helping to establish Orange Krush as a cheering section and as a philanthropic organization that it is.”

I couldn’t agree more. And with Henson in poor health of late, it would be wonderful to see him celebrated appropriately while he’s still around to enjoy it.

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Chatting Cubs with ‘Wrigleyville Nation’

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 9.15.29 AMLast week was a wild one for the Chicago Cubs.

And on Sunday night, the guys at the “Wrigleyville Nation” Podcast invited me on as a guest to chat about the week that was against the division rival Cardinals and crosstown rival White Sox.

The pair can rival each other as the Cubs’ archrivals.

Also during the podcast, we discussed Cubs fandom (and how I became a die-hard), the latest on the Wrigley Field bleachers experience (it’s good, but could be better) and where the team stands at the midpoint mark of the season (ahead of where my expectations stood in the spring).

You listen to our chat, you can click right here.

Chicago’s July still delivering a bang

Windy-City-Smokeout3-800x483From the Saturday, July 11, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

By Dave Wischnowsky

The WISCH LIST

The Independence Day hoopla is through, but Chicago still has plenty of fireworks left for the remainder of July – and not just because the Cubs and White Sox are tangling at rowdy Wrigley Field this weekend.

Although that should pack plenty of civic punch too.

Rather, the biggest bangs for the remainder of the month target our taste buds. As you may be aware, the 2015 Taste of Chicago is ongoing through Sunday. But that iconic – and crowded – festival in Grant Park is far from the only location where you can get a taste of the city during July.

Here are a few other ways to wet your whistle and satisfy your stomach up in Chicago this weekend and throughout the rest of the month.

Windy City Smokeout
Saturday-Sunday

BBQ. Country Music. Beer.

When it comes to selling its appeal on its website, the Windy City Smokeout doesn’t mince words. Instead, it minces mouthwatering meat dipped into delicious sauces and served up with a heaping side of country entertainment and adult beverages.

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Chicago’s Union Station can be more Grand (Central)

UnionFrom the Saturday, July 4, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …

The WISCH LIST

By Dave Wischnowsky

There are train stations. And there are destinations.

And then, in rare and wonderful instances, there are both.

Last Saturday in New York City, my wife and I visited one of those wondrous rarities when we took the “5” train to Midtown and whiled away a rainy Manhattan afternoon exploring the fabled Grand Central Station.

During our time puttering about the sprawling 48-acre terminal/tourist attraction, we lunched at The Oyster Bar – one of the city’s oldest, established in 1913 – before wandering through the eclectic array of food stands in the adjacent basement food court.

Upstairs, we strained our necks while admiring the intricacies of the Zodiac constellations painted high above the beautiful Main Concourse’s covering its towering ceiling.

Next, we sipped cocktails inside The Campbell Apartment, an opulent space that once belonged to 1920s business tycoon John C. Campbell and is now a dimly lit “speakeasy” evoking that era. Later on, we spent an hour people watching from the bar at Michael Jordan’s NYC Steakhouse on the balcony that overlooks the busy concourse below.

After finally leaving the terminal, I found myself wondering why Chicago’s own historic Union Station – which I used to visit often when I worked nearby – couldn’t be more like Grand Central. And then upon my return to Chicago, I was delighted to discover that it just may soon be.

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A Decade in the City

Screen Shot 2015-07-05 at 12.09.24 PMTen years ago today, I moved from Ottawa to Chicago and started work at the Tribune (yes, on the same day — that was a trick). Today, as I look back on this past decade, it’s been one filled with professional ups and professional downs, personal highs and personal lows, some things expected and many things not.

I’ve grown a lot, met many great people and had a lot of fun while also becoming much wiser, falling even more in love with my favorite city in the world and, most importantly, finding the love of my life (you’re the best, Debbie). Without a doubt, it’s been the most tumultuous, most exciting and most interesting 10-year span of my life so far, and I very much look forward to seeing what the next decade will bring.

And so to celebrate my milestone Chicago anniversary, I’m off to Wrigley for a Cubs game. Because, c’mon, in the end, I haven’t changed *that* much. ;)