SBD/March 29, 2013/Facilities

Univ. Of Illinois' $160M Assembly Hall Upgrades Include Premium Seating, New Entrance

Univ. of Illinois AD Mike Thomas on Thursday said that "major" construction on Assembly Hall is scheduled to start in March '14 and be completed by November '16, though "some utility work will likely begin this summer," according to Julie Wurth of the Champaign NEWS-GAZETTE. Illinois athletic officials said that the building "has two dozen opportunities for 'naming rights' -- from the hall itself to the court, entrances and sports displays honoring various teams -- but those won't be made public" until the $160M project is brought to the school's Board of Trustees for final approval in late May. Associate AD/Media Services Kent Brown said that the school needs 80% of project funding to "be in place before trustees will approve it." Illinois "kicked off its public fundraising for the project this week, sending brochures to about 8,000 season ticket holders and I-Fund donors outlining the prices for 'premium seating' at the renovated Assembly Hall" (Champaign NEWS-GAZETTE, 3/29). Thomas said that 75% of the $160M project will be "funded by donors." Student newspaper the DAILY ILLINI's Dan Welin notes Illinois students earlier this month approved "a $25-per-semester fee," which will cover 17% of the cost. Assembly Hall's new capacity will be "between 15,200 and 15,300." The premium seating will "include 12 suites with 14 seats, 80 four-person mini-suites, approximately 1,000 club seats and 120 courtside seats." Thomas said that the estimated total cost of the project is $260-300M "once it is paid in full over the course of the 30-year bond." Architectural firm AECOM "submitted its design to University officials Nov. 1." Thomas said that the overall renovation, which "includes the addition of air conditioning, will allow for use of the facility another four months out of the year in order to attract more events" (DAILY ILLINI, 3/29).

ASSEMBLY'S AMENITIES: In Illinois, Mark Tupper notes Assembly Hall renovation plans include "a new overhanging video scoreboard and 'ribbon' scoreboards." There also will be "increased restrooms and concession areas," as well as "wider concourses on the lower level." Another upgrade will be "a 'grand' main entrance on the west side of the building that will include a Hall of Fame area, retail shop and ticket office." Other amenities include "new team locker rooms and new dressing rooms for theater and musical acts" on top of a "new sports medicine area and expanded meeting areas" (Decatur HERALD & REVIEW, 3/29). Illinois basketball coach John Groce said, "Our staff has been involved in the locker room design based on our experience of seeing other facilities and of bouncing ideas off one another. Let’s just say that in every phase or area of the building, we are not leaving one stone unturned. It’s going to be right up there among the best buildings in the country when it’s done" (Decatur HERALD & REVIEW, 3/29).
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