Illinois Field, one of the finest collegiate facilities in the Midwest, serves as the home of Fighting Illini Baseball. Constructed in 1988 the ballpark saw its long-anticipated facelift during the 1999 season when lights were installed in time for five night games, and in doing so made Illinois one of the first four Big Ten schools with the ability to play night games on its home field. Illinois Field's newest addition features six light poles evenly spaced outside the perimeter of the stadium.
The first game played at Illinois Field took place March 24, 1988. The Fighting Illini hosted Western Illinois and won the game, 11-10. The first night game in Illinois Field history took place on April 27, 1999, a rainy Tuesday evening against Illinois State. After an hour rain delay, the lights were flipped on and Illinois' 1998 Big Ten Championship flag was raised in center field. The first pitch was a strike from Illini ace Jason Anderson. Illinois went on to win the game, 7-6, in 10 innings behind a game-winning single from senior shortstop Jon Anderson. Reliever Jimmy Journell picked up the win.
The current facility, designed by Heery Fabrap, was built to replace the original Illinois Field which was located on the corner of Wright Street and University Avenue, the current site of the university's Beckman Institute. The original Illinois Field served as the home to Illinois football and track and field until 1923 and Illinois baseball until 1988.
A symmetrical stadium, Illinois Field measures 330 feet down the lines, 370 feet to the alleys and 400 feet to center field. The entire complex features a clubhouse complete with lounge, locker room, four batting cages, two bullpens, a 25-person press box and permanent seating for 1,500. Lawn seating provides space for up to 3,000 and was tested to the limits with the record crowds drawn to Illinois Field to watch Illinois play in the 1998 Big Ten Tournament.
In September of 1996, the locker room was renovated and doubled in size, resulting in more spacious accommodations for Illinois student-athletes. Space that once housed offices has been converted into a recruiting lounge for the players and coaching staff. Recently, the Dugout Club funded a locker room redecoration project, along with purchasing both a full personal computer set-up, complete with a DVD burner for highlight videos, and a new big screen television for the players' lounge.
Illinois Field was upgraded prior to the 2008 season with the installation of an artificial FieldTurf surface. The new turf closely resembles grass in playability while proving to be a much truer surface than its natural grass counterpart.
The project cost just over $1 million and was funded by private donors
In preparation for the turf, the field was graded and lowered to install a concrete apron, to which the turf was fastened. The infield and outfield are covered with green turf where grass would have been and terra cotta-colored turf in place of the infield dirt, and infilled with a mixture of 20 percent washed silica sand and 80 percent rounded cryogenic rubber. The sand helps hold down the turf, preventing buckling or shifting, while the rubber holds up the turf filaments, mimicking natural grass.
In 2010, construction began on the clubhouse at Illinois Field to add approximately 30 percent more square footage to the facility. The main area affected is the players' locker room, which doubled in size in order to provide for more room for the student-athletes to gather before and after practices and games, as well as for instruction from coaches. Construction completed prior to the 2011 campaign, cost roughly $800,00 and was funded by a private gift.
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