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Feel The Beat: New entertainment district opens in downtown Champaign

The Beat is a new entertainment district in downtown Champaign with life music, food vendors, shops, and community engagement on Market St.

CHAMPAIGN – A new entertainment district is coming to downtown Champaign. The Beat, located on Market St, will be a space for adults to listen to music, support local businesses, and establish a sense of community. Morning Edition host Kimberly Schofield spoke with Tracy Parsons, the Community Relations Manager for the City of Champaign, about what The Beat will bring to the community.

Tracy Parsons: The Beat just represents downtown Champaign. Right? We want and need the community to understand that we’ve got an unbelievable vibrant downtown. We want people to come back out, patronize the bars, the restaurants, and just be in the space. So we created what we call The Beat. The Beat is downtown. It’s happening. It’s where you should be. It’s where everyone wants the community to be. We also have identified an area, Market Street, so we’re gonna block it off, we have a stage in the middle, we’re going to have food trucks, we’re going to have an area with seating or there might be some games planned. Pour Bros. and Seven Saints restaurants anchor, so they’re gonna have bags out and it’s just gonna be a fun environment. And you know how much I love live music. So we’re going to really feature bands,  new artists, local acts, regional acts, and we’re going todo some national acts as well down on our stage. It’ll start late night. We have a very fantastic Friday Night Live on three or four corners of downtown Champaign. There’s live music, there’s entertainment, people are walking, you know, hanging out, listening, patronizing, sitting outside, restaurants…just imagine the summer. It’s The Beat. It’s the vibe. It’s the community. Come on down and feel The Beat.

A woman wearing sunglasses holds headphones to her ears with one hand while the other DJs on a sound board.
The Beat in downtown Champaign will feature music, entertainment, and culture. The Beat

Kimberly Schofield: I can feel it. I can feel the rhythm and it is fun. And I do think…I don’t know, for sure and maybe you can speak on it if you know, but I feel like, especially after COVID, sometimes it was hard to get people back outside and get the downtown life back up to what it was in the past where people can just kind of experience a sense of community.

TP: There’s no doubt that COVID and that period in our lives and our communities, we’re still feeling the ramifications of that. And people just…their habits changed. And they stayed in and they stay in. So that’s part of the impetus for what we’re doing. We want the community to know that downtown is alive, like I said, vibrant, you know. The businesses really need it. We’re still in a recovery mode as a community and so how we can come together, get folks back out, is the feeling behind The Beat. And so, yes, you’re right. Habits, process of how people socialize, interact, their social habits of dining out. We have Uber Eats and folks are having stuff delivered, right? So all of that, again, is part of the driver behind The Beat and getting people back out.

KS: Yeah, when I bartended, there was an outdoor area-it no longer exists as an outdoor area-but I remember there were the noise compliances and we had to stop early. We could still do stuff inside, but it is kind of nice when there’s something designated for people to be able to spend those summer nights outside and just feel the music and enjoy themselves and support all of the local businesses and the performers.

A scissors cutting a ribbon underneath an invitation for the grand opening of The Beat.
A ribbon cutting ceremony for The Beat will take place on Friday, May 31st, at 4:30pm in downtown Champaign. City of Champaign

TP: Yeah. And then part of our attraction to the Market St area is while there are some folks who live in the buildings downtown, upstairs there are a number of apartments and part of that renovation through the years is residential apartments, but for the most part, Market St is not in line with the residential area so that helps with the ideal space of why we’ve chosen Market St for the entertainment district, late night. And we want to encourage the restaurants and bars to stay open later now. So if you come downtown Champaign, about eight o’clock during the week, it’s pretty slow. And on the weekends about 10:30, it’s pretty slow. So we have to change that dynamic and get people back out. And so it’s going to be a great mixture, Kim, of DJs, live music, different genres of music. We kicked off with Toast to Taylor Street. We had a hip hop band, we had a blues band, rock band.

KS: It was happening!

TP: It was happening, right? We’re also excited about just letting folks know what’s going on in the bars and the restaurants. We’ve got some incentive grants to encourage our

businesses to to bring in entertainment, live music…

KS: And it’s thebeatchampaign.com for people who want to see a lineup.

TP: Mentioned the website, you know, we also you know just check out MTD buses that are moving around right? So, thanks, to MTD. We’re going to be partnering with them for information scrolling on the buses, internal marketing in the buses, so it’ll be really nice.

KS: I’m excited for it. I love live music also, and I love the warm weather. Thank you so much, Tracy.

TP: Thank you.

Picture of Kimberly Schofield

Kimberly Schofield

Kimberly Schofield is the host of Morning Edition and covers arts and entertainment for Illinois Newsroom. When she is not covering the arts, she is performing in plays and musicals or running the streets of CU.

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Severe storms possible Thursday evening and overnight

From the National Weather Service in Central Illinois: A line of t’storms will affect the area late Thursday afternoon into the overnight hours. Some severe storms are in the forecast, with damaging wind gusts and large hail. Stay weather aware and be ready to take shelter when storms approach.