State Farm Center, an architectural and engineering marvel on the University of Illinois campus, celebrated its 50th birthday in a big way in early March 2013. In addition to a Fighting Illini men's basketball win, the festivities commemorated a glorious past while heralding a breathtaking future. That future will become a reality courtesy of full-scale renovation project that will benefit, in important ways, everyone who visits the famous and versatile facility.
When it opened on the Urbana-Champaign campus on March 2, 1963, State Farm Center became an instant classic. The first concrete-domed sports structure in the world, it has been the site of countless events, from memorable Fighting Illini basketball games to state high school wrestling championships to famous musical performers like Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones. In the multi-purpose house that architect and Illinois alumnus Max Abramovitz designed, untold numbers of spectators have thrilled to the hardwood antics of the Harlem Globetrotters and the acrobatic artistry of Cirque du Soleil, Broadway blockbusters like "Cats" and "Les Miserables," and family favorites such as Sesame Street Live. This iconic house, this House of 'Paign as dubbed by faithful fans of Fighting Illini basketball who know what home-court advantage is all about, has served nobly as the beloved destination for spectators of all stripes.
Now 50 years old, venerable, distinctive State Farm Center remains much more than a workhorse facility that has been the scene of indelible memories for tens of millions of spectators. The structure is a unifying thread in the fabric of the University of Illinois. As incoming freshmen, U of I students participate in New Student Convocation at the State Farm Center and as seniors they enjoy the fruits of their academic labor through graduation ceremonies there.
From start to finish, U of I students, whose support sustains the facility, have called this iconic and historic building their home, and its value and importance extends to and beyond Central Illinois and the State of Illinois. And, reflective of their leadership and deep commitment, students recently approved a referendum on a per-semester fee that will significantly help finance the renovation of State Farm Center.
This far-reaching project to dramatically renovate and improve State Farm Center, Illinois Renaissance, is the culmination of longtime and thorough consideration by University officials and facilities experts, and includes input from important and knowledgeable stakeholders, notably Fighting Illini fans and others familiar with the facility.
Illinois Renaissance will include many necessary and significant improvements while ensuring that State Farm Center retains the qualities that have made it a landmark. Through Illinois Renaissance, the renovated State Farm Center will seamlessly combine contemporary amenities and technological innovation with the traditions and history of its storied past.
Illinois Renaissance, estimated at $157 million, will be one of the most ambitious building improvement projects in U of I history, and will benefit everyone - students, alumni and visitors from near and far - for decades to come. The impact on Fighting Illini basketball will be especially profound, reflective of the University's and the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics' commitment to elevate and sustain Illinois at the elite level of NCAA competition. A renovated and rejuvenated State Farm Center will open the door for the University of Illinois to host National Collegiate Athletic Association championship events, bolstering the reputation of the athletics program and serving notice that the Urbana-Champaign campus is a top-notch destination for the highest level of collegiate sports. Through Illinois Renaissance, the University of Illinois will build on its commitment to provide a superior experience for all student athletes, paving the way for them to compete at the highest level for championships in the Big Ten Conference and the NCAA.
More than ever, Fighting Illini fans will have the opportunity to become key partners in the success of their basketball teams. With an eye toward improving the game-day experience for all fans, Illinois Renaissance will entail improvements to the expansive C Concourse, including new seats and more restrooms and concessions. The A and B sections of State Farm Center will be reconfigured to accommodate premium seating (Courtside Club, Founders Suites, Loge, and the Traditions Clubs) and 3 new club spaces and expanded area on the floor for the energetic student members of the Orange Krush (from 700 to 1,200) and the University of Illinois Basketball Band. In addition, Fighting Illini athletes will have new locker rooms, training facilities, and meeting areas for game preparation. Other planned major improvements to State Farm Center through Illinois Renaissance are air conditioning, which will allow the facility to host events for student and public enjoyment year-round, and exhibit areas, including a basketball Hall of Fame, that showcase the grand tradition and success of Fighting lllini basketball.
Illinois Renaissance is a major and necessary undertaking, one that calls on the support of many for the benefit of all. This sweeping project will involve and better serve University of Illinois students, student athletes, and fans of Fighting Illini athletics and the world-class entertainment that has been a hallmark of State Farm Center. Illinois Renaissance is a clarion call for dedicated and visionary friends to leave their mark, their legacy, on one of the nation's greatest facilities, State Farm Center, while continuing to provide millions of Illinoisans memories that will last a lifetime.
Make a difference, join the Illinois Renaissance.