Smile Politely

Year of the Park, A to Z: Thompson Park, Champaign

As Year of the Park continues, we will be documenting every park in Champaign, Urbana, and Savoy, Champaign County Forest Preserves, along with other odds and ends between July 2020 and July 2021. You can see what has been covered thus far by clicking here. If you have suggestions or ideas or feedback, feel free to contact us at [email protected].


Thompson Park 


1200 W. Bradley Ave., Champaign 

a picture of Thompson Park walking path with a table and benches

Photo by Maddie Rice. 


This tiny 0.3 acre park isn’t much more than a walking path and a table with benches to sit on, if you happen to be in that neighborhood, and felt the need to rest your feet for a bit, and roll a left handed, perhaps. There is literally almost nothing else I can write about it, lest I bore you with another long diatribe about the lack of funding our park districts receives because of wealthy and/or brainwashed people whining about a few bucks off the top to fund more green space and resources for, you know… everyone. Whatever. 

The park was donated to the Park District in 1964 by Clarence Thompson, who evidently owned a piece of the Hotel Tilden Hall, which sat on the corner of Hill and Neil for almost a century (half of that time it was known as Beardsley Hotel) before it was razed in 1967 for more parking in Downtown Champaign. Here is how it looked back before it came down: 

Photo from Champaign History website, with no specified credit given. 

History, indeed, repeats itself, because this plot of land is scheduled to become a hotel once again at some point in the future. The plans have been laid out, and it will be an Aloft brand hotel, it appears. Despite a public ground breaking last October, plans have been put on hold because people can’t seem to figure out that wearing a mask isn’t about power or control. Weird times.  Here is what it is going to look like, theoretically: 

A design rendering of the new Aloft hotel scheduled to be erected in Downtown Champaign sometime after the plague is under control

Graphic rendering from City of Champaign. 

The development group is led by Doug Altenberger, an icon of 1980s Illini basketball under Lou Henson. That man could really fill it up, especially from long range. His last season was 1986-1987, the first year that the NCAA added a three-point shot, and Altenberger was truly a marksman hitting 76 of 159 attempts, good for a .478 percentage from deep. 

Now he is building hotels a few miles away from where he did most of that damage. Cool! 

Anyhow, there are trees in the park. Here is a nice photo of one of them. 

a close up picture of the bark on a tree

Photo by Maddie Rice. 


There’s not a lot I can really say about this park, except sort of the same thing as I inferred above, which is that while we are very blessed with an incredible parks system here in Champaign, we evidently do not have the coin to make them all into the kinds of places you or I would choose to meet up for a lovely afternoon. I’ll leave it at that today. PYGMALION starts soon, and despite the fact that the virtual nature of the event renders me almost entirely useless this year, I am still a bit on edge, mostly because it is a stark reminder that time is running out for me, for you, for everyone, and we better make something of it, and fast. 

Top image by Maddie Rice. 

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