UI trustees sign off on renaming, renovating Assembly Hall

UI trustees sign off on renaming, renovating Assembly Hall

CHICAGO — University of Illinois trustees today approved a new name and a $165 million renovation plan for the University of Illinois Assembly Hall.

Meeting at the Chicago campus, the board signed off on design plans, a project budget and a $60 million naming rights agreement to rename the arena the "State Farm Center."

AECOM, which was hired in 2011 for conceptual design work on the project, will also draw up construction documents, for a total contract of $13.1 million. The board approved up to $9.5 million for Turner Construction Management to manage the project, which is expected to be completed by the 2016-17 basketball season.

Done in phases, the renovation will include the addition of air-conditioning, more student seats, premium seating, new lobbies and locker rooms. It is being funded mostly by donations, but also from student fees and ticket surcharges.

The university will finance the $165 million project with the sale of bonds, most likely over 30 years. Including interest, the total cost could reach $250 million to $300 million.

The board also approved a one-year contract extension and a $200,000 raise for head basketball coach John Groce, which will bring his annual compensation to $1.6 million. The terms were announced last month.

The board also approved construction plans for a new multimillion-dollar baseball stadium at the UI-Chicago named for New York Yankees' centerfielder Curtis Granderson, who announced a large gift for the ballpark in February.

The stadium will host UIC Flames baseball and youth league games through partnerships with Major League Baseball and Chicago Public Schools. The UI-Chicago retired Granderson's No. 28 Flames jersey in February.

After a lengthy discussion, trustees also approved new rates for the UI Chicago's self-funded student insurance plan, which will cover sex or gender reassignment surgery for the first time. Students proposed adding the benefit, which will cost about $4.50 more per semester; rates are going up a total of $60 per semester.

Trustees Edward McMillan and Timothy Koritz both voted no, fearing it might be construed as using taxpayer money or that parents would object to being forced to pay for a controversial procedure that would benefit only a few students.

Other trustees noted that students can opt out of the insurance program, that it wouldn't use state or federal money, and that it would cover only surgeries deemed medically necessary. Based on history at other universities, it's likely to be one student per year, noted UI Trustee Patrick Fitzgerald.

"This is not an easy process. The notion that people would go through it lightly is very low," he said.

Trustee Pamela Strobel also said trustees shouldn't go down the "slippery slope" of trying to determine "what taxpayers want or don't want."

Trustees also approved a new policy drawn up in response to a state law prohibiting public universities from hiring external search firms except when recruiting a president, or when the president or board of trustees demonstrates a need for using such a firm. Exceptions include senior positions that require strict confidentiality in the initial stages at a level campus staff can't provide; positions, such as athletic coaches, that require extensive recruiting and networking due to competitive markets and the need for a diverse candidate pool; and positions in a field not found traditionally within higher education, such as a specialized field of medicine.

UI administrators will track the use of such firms and report annually to the trustees.

The law was prompted in part by a News-Gazette story that found the UI had spent $6 million over nine years on search firms.


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vcponsardin wrote on May 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm

So despite massive corporate sponsorship and a renaming, the U of I is still perpertuating the lie that the old Assembly Hall (now the State Farm Center) belongs to "the students" and will continue to milk them of fees for the privilege of attending various events there.  What a scam.

TheChiefLives wrote on May 29, 2013 at 2:05 pm

"Massive corporate sponsorship" that only covers a portion of the total expense...

Ticket surcharges and Student fee increase (modest, not to mention voted and approved by the students) as well as private donations will cover the rest.


So you'd just tell State Farm to take their money and go elsewhere?


The snozzberries taste like snozzberries...

vcponsardin wrote on May 29, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I gather critical thinking skills are not your forte.  Try rereading my post--carefully--and this time don't put your words into my writing.  Try it.  See if you can do it.

TheChiefLives wrote on May 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm

I gather math skills are not your forte.

Oh, sorry.

Okay, I'll re-read it.

Okay, done.

Got the same result.

Maybe it's me.

repeteil wrote on May 29, 2013 at 3:05 pm

I am not fond of State Farm and espically when they take over on the U of I Campus. The U of I is a state university which includes the people of Illinois not just State Farm. This is a very sad time for all. Once this starts it never ends. Maybe we need to change the U of I to State Farm University.

TheChiefLives wrote on May 29, 2013 at 4:05 pm

Right, because everyone knows that having naming rights to the sports arena means they now run the University.  Ask any other university that has done this.  They'll tell ya'.