A new town-gown project means drivers in Normal will know exactly where they are—Redbird country.

The town of Normal’s old green street signs near campus were replaced this past summer and fall with new red and white versions featuring the Redbird head logo. The 181 new signs—the first of which immediately greets visitors as they exit Interstate 55 on Main Street—were the direct result of a strong partnership between Illinois State University, the town of Normal, and Redbird Athletics.

It’s exactly the kind of partnership aspired to in Educating Illinois 2013-2018: Individualized Attention, Shared Aspirations, the University’s new strategic plan. That blueprint lays out a major goal of fostering an engaged community while enhancing University outreach, in part by increasing the pride, engagement, and sense of community among University stakeholders, such as Normal residents.

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Educating Illinois in action: Read more about how Illinois State’s strategic plan is being implemented: EducatingIllinois.IllinoisState.edu.

“We’re extremely excited to see the Town of Normal and the University partner to show off our shared Redbird pride,” said R.C. McBride, Illinois State’s director of trademark and licensing.

The new signs were installed between July and September along Main Street from Raab Road to Hovey Avenue, and along the north part of campus east of Main Street. The town of Normal public works employee who installed the first sign July 9 even got some help from Reggie Redbird himself.

The signs were paid for through Illinois State licensing royalties.

“This is really a joint effort. We are able to purchase the signs with no tax dollars, no tuition or student fee dollars—just the royalties recouped from sales of branded items,” said McBride.

Educating Illinois also calls on University leaders to develop partnerships with business, educational, and government entities that provide mutually beneficial opportunities—another big piece of the street-sign project. The Redbird Pride Committee, comprised of local business and community leaders and University staff, presented the idea of the sign change to the Normal City Council in June.

“The Town of Normal has a strong and vital partnership with Illinois State University,” said Normal Mayor Chris Koos. “The Redbird Street signs are a great way to show school and community support.”

Redbird Athletics also helped make the project happen. The signs enhance the “branding all of us on campus are trying to reinforce to any resident or visitor to Normal,” said Leanna Bordner, deputy athletics director and senior women’s administrator.

“The areas where the signs were installed are very prominent gateways, and will definitely leave a Redbird impression, and reinforce the town-gown partnership we are so fortunate to enjoy,” she said.

The University plans to add future signs to other areas of campus.

Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@IllinoisState.edu.