When the seasons come to an end for the University of Illinois men’s and women’s basketball teams, the renovation of the building now known as the State Farm Center will begin on March 6. Over the next two years, the 51-year-old arena will undergo a $165 million reconstruction of its interior.
Because of the difficulty of moving the basketball teams to another venue the work will done in the off seasons. Each year the renovation work will begin in March and end in November, until the scheduled completion date of November 2016.
By that time, the old arena will be virtually a new building on the inside, while the beloved exterior will remain the same.
Among the changes:
1) There will be luxury boxes in stalled, so businesses and groups can host gatherings before, during, and after games.
2) There will be air-conditioning added to the facility. Currently, the arena is seldom used in the summer months because the heat is too unbearable.
3) The on floor seating for the student cheering section known as the Orange Crush will increase from 700 to 1,200.
The project will be payed for by private contributions. Among those contributions is the controversial $60 million naming rights agreement between the University of Illinois and State Farm Insurance. The agreement is controversial because people in the area were upset that the name was changed from the traditional Assembly Hall.
Unfortunately, some people in the area of Champaign and Urbana Illinois look upon the arena as sacred, and they seem to regard it as more important than the needs of the university and the teams that play in it.
John Groce, the men’s basketball coach and Matt Bollant, the women’s basketball coach will benefit greatly from the renovation. The improvements to the State Farm Center facilities will be an inducement to the top high school basketball players in the state of Illinois and elsewhere to play their college career at the University of Illinois.
Also, the improvements will encourage the public to attend basketball games, as well as other events at the old arena for years to come.
Over the last forty years, Illinois has developed a quality men’s basketball program, but the basketball facilities have not been at the same level. By the fall of 2016, those facilities will be at a high level. It is a change that is long overdue.