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Southwest Illinois News is a weekly news publication spotlighting attractions, events, entertainment, tourism, jobs and business developments in Southwestern Illinois
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IN THE NEWS
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1st Annual Open Air German Christmas Market
BELLEVILLE, IL, (SWI-News.com), November 23, 2014 - The City of Belleville and the Belleville Bicentennial Committee will kick-off the City's 1st Annual Christkindlmarkt, an authentic, open air, German Christmas Market, with an Official Opening Ceremony at 4 pm on Friday, November 28.

The Christkindlmarkt will feature European vendors and traditional German fare, including warm savory foods, cookies, cakes and traditional Gluhwein, a warm spiced wine served in a souvenir mug. The Market will offer food and beverages to consume on-site, as well as packaged items that can be taken home to enjoy or give as gifts.

Set on Belleville's scenic Public Square, located at the intersection of Main Street and Illinois Highway 159, the Market will be open daily from November 28 through December 23rd. Vendors will operate from individual wooden chalets designed specifically for this event, and will sell a variety of items including handmade German lace, Russian and Ukrainian nesting dolls, amber jewelry, Egyptian hand blown glass ornaments, hand carved Santas, and German accessories. In addition, each weekend the Christkindlmarkt will also feature demonstrations and entertainment.

The Christkindlmarkt will be a wonderful addition to Belleville's annual holiday events such as the Santa Parade, which will start at 10 a.m. on Main Street featuring 100 parade units of floats, marching bands, and dance groups. Santa arrives at the end of the parade, and settles in to his house on the Public Square.

A Community Sing-a-Long & Lighting of the Memorial Fountain in the Public Square will be held at 6 p.m.

Visitors can enjoy free, horse-drawn trolley rides. from 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. through downtown Belleville's beautifully decorated historic shopping and dining district.

Hours: Sundays - Noon-6 pm; Mondays - Thursdays - 11 am-7 pm; Fridays and Saturdays - 10 am-9 pm. Special Hours: Sunday December 21 - 10 am-7 pm; Monday December 22 - 9 am-7 pm; Tuesday, December 23 - 9 am-Noon

Free demonstrations and entertainment Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.


McKendree Metro Rec Plex
The new state-of-the art sports complex, called The McKendree Metro Rec Plex, will include two NHL-sized ice rinks, aquatic center, fitness area, and associated amenities. Rendering courtesy developer Dean Oelze.

New Ice Rink and Aquatic Center Proposed for O'Fallon, Illinois
O'FALLON, IL, (SWI-News.com), November 5, 2014 - Real estate developer Dean Oelze, has announced that he is proposing a new commercial development to the City of O'Fallon, Illinois. Encompassing 45 acres at the corner of Scott Troy Road and Highway 50, the proposed development will be called The Four Points Center.

The Four Points Center will consist of recreational, retail, professional, and hospitality-oriented businesses and will be anchored by the developer's proposed recreational facility, McKendree Metro Rec Plex. This public facility will include two NHL-sized ice rinks, aquatic center, fitness area, and associated amenities.

McKendree Metro Rec Plex is expected to serve as a regional hub to host swimming, hockey and ice skating tournaments. The facility and its amenities will be open to the public with the purchase of a membership or daily admission. The aquatic center will include a competition pool with dive area and a zero-entry recreation pool. The recreation pool will also have four practice lanes and will be utilized for water aerobics classes and swim lessons. The fitness area will include a half court gymnasium, free weights, a walking track, and numerous pieces of cardio equipment. The sports complex will also have party rooms and conference facilities available for birthday parties or company retreats.

"The Four Points Center and McKendree Metro Rec Plex would be a wonderful addition to our city and community," said Mayor Gary L. Graham, City of O'Fallon. "We look forward to working with Dean Oelze and seeing this development move from an idea to a reality."

Core users of the McKendree Metro Rec Plex include McKendree University and the Southern Illinois IceHawks (SIIH). SIIH is a youth hockey organization for players ages 5-18, representing southern Illinois communities including O'Fallon, Shiloh, Belleville, Swansea, Fairview, Mascoutah, and many others. In addition to practicing and playing games, local teams intend to host tournaments at the sports complex.

"We are very excited to bring Southern Illinois IceHawks hockey back home to our communities and would like to thank the St. Louis Blues for sharing Scottrade Center with us this and past seasons, allowing youth hockey to remain strong in our area. We look forward to making this new rink our permanent home going forward," said Pat McLeod, President of the Southern Illinois IceHawks. "A new, two-sheet facility will allow SIIH to restart Learn to Skate and Learn to Play programs. These programs are the gateway to introducing children to ice-related sports, which they currently have limited access to."

McKendree University will use the facility to host their existing men's hockey team as well as a new women's team and a second men's team. These teams will practice, play, and host tournaments at the sports complex.

The aquatic center will become the home of future water sports at McKendree University. These new sports will include swimming, diving, water polo, and synchronized swimming. The pool is expected to regularly host regional swimming and diving events at the collegiate and club level. The facility will also serve as a year-round facility for competitive swimming programs for all ages.

"We are very excited about the McKendree Metro Rec Plex and the many opportunities it will provide McKendree University to expand and develop women's and men's NCAA water sports, and ice hockey programs. In addition, the Rec Plex will allow us to offer a wide variety of recreational activities to our students, faculty and staff," said James M. Dennis, President of McKendree University. "This new venture has allowed the developer, McKendree University, the City of O'Fallon, and the Ice Hawks to partner on an important venture that will benefit all of the principle parties and the greater population in this region."

Construction could begin late this year, barring any complications, and is expected to take eight to 12 months. It will create numerous permanent jobs following each phase of development, as well as hundreds of temporary construction jobs.


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