Share your 'flying saucer' memories here
As our book "A Saucer Coming to Rest: A Half-Century of the Assembly Hall" was nearing completion, we asked readers for their favorite memories of the Assembly Hall.
Here's a sampling of those responses. We'd love to hear from you; submit your memory here.
Michelle Burns, Fairmount: The very first memory I have of the Assembly Hall is when I was about 4 or 5 years old and my mom took me to see the Sesame Street Live. It was so amazing and I loved it. My favorites where Bert and Ernie and I can remember when they sang the What a Name song and they said my name. Great memory. I hope that someday I will get to take my little boy to see something like that at the Assembly Hall.
Paige Millburg, Urbana: Flooding the court as part of the Orange Krsuh after upsetting Michigan State on College Gameday, February 2010!
Brendan McGinty, Urbana: EJ. Corner J. Illini beat Magic, Kelser, and Judd. #1... for a couple of days.
Richard Bobowski, Dallas: Scores of good memories of sports and concerts, but the earliest memory is going to the circus and riding an elephant outside the of the Hall.
Eric Bramowicz, Champaign: Being there December 1, 2004. Illinois vs #1 Wake Forest. Illinois thoroughly destroying the #1 team in the country and setting the stage for the most memorable basketball season in recent memory. NEVER heard the assembly hall louder than that day, it was truly a special night to have been in attendance!
Chalaine Davis, Champaign: Standing in line for over 8 hours wrapped around parking lots clear back to First St. to see the president of the United States at that time, Bill Clinton. Once in a lifetime opportunity and well worth the wait... The Hall was packed.
Tim (Stewart) Onstott, Rosedale, Ind.: When I was a junior in high school, I was fortunate enough to be a reserve on the Effingham High School basketball team that played in the Elite Eight in March of '81. Uwe Blab was our center, and we dressed in the Illini locker room. I used Perry Range's locker. Coach Jim Maxedon told us that would be an experience we would remember the rest of our lives, and was he ever right. During introductions, I tripped stepping up onto the raised floor of "The Hall" and nearly face planted in fron of several thousand people. In December of '11 the Effingham teams of 79-80 and 80-81 had a 30 year reunion that refreshed a lot of those memories. That was a great time in many of our lives.
Angela Lus, Urbana: My favorite memory is my first concert ever. I was 8 years old and got to see Lee Greenwood, Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers in concert. It was so awsome! Sitting outside the assembly hall for 2 days to get 4 row tickets to see New Kids on the Block! That was like having a slumber party with 200 people it was a blast! Being in 1st row at a Kenny Chesney concert and getting autographs! My best memory is graduating in 1993 from Urbana High School in the assembly hall. It was so big that anyone in your family can come in and watch and every seat at the assembly hall is a good seat!
Judy Ferber, Indianapolis: 1979 Illini v. Michigan State. Eddie Johnson hits buzzer beater for the win! I recall that Governor Thompson was in the building that evening and a bomb threat was phoned in before the game. An announcement was made indicating that everyone was free to leave due to the threat. No one moved. The prevailing sentiment in our section was that if it was our time to go, the Assembly Hall was a great place for it!
Dave Shaul, Champaign: 4 favorites:
Being part of the first graduating class at the Hall in 1963
Broadcasting Eddie Johnson's famous winning shot against #1 Michigan State
Attending the Elvis Presley performance..the crowd was as much to see as Elvis
Directing Bob Hope to the nearest rest room as he and his entourage arrived at the Hall for one of the first shows there.
Dena Strong, Champaign: I was born in Danville, and my parents took me to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind when I was maybe four or five. Then, a little while later, they brought me to Champaign to the Assembly Hall for the first time, to see the Ice Capades with Sesame Street characters.
I thought they were taking me to the alien ship and it was going to fly away with me, so I was completely terrified. I vaguely remember having to be carried into the building kicking and wailing.
Then, of course, the Sesame Street Ice Capades were definitely not aliens intending to eat me. So I loved the show to bits.
But I still didn't want to look back at the building as we were leaving, just in case the aliens had been hiding.
Edward Green, McHenry: The Rolling Stones concert in 1969. I was able to get great seats on the floor. When the Stones came on stage, I was one of the first fans to run up to the stage and position myself right in front of Mick Jagger and Keith Richard. I remember Mick asking Keith between songs "Where are we, anyhow?" Answer: Assembly Hall in Champaign, Illinois!
Cindy Webb, Mahomet: In the late 1970's and early 1980's I was a huge Reo Speedwagon fan. The band sold out the Hall in promotion of their "Hi Infidelity" album, in 1981. It wasn't until 1983 that I was able to see the band at the Assembly Hall. Since then I have seen them three other times at the Hall. The last time I saw them at the Hall was in 2009, and I had floor seats. I brought my then 12 year old daughter to the concert with me. She and I were able to work our way to the front of the stage, got some handshakes, and guitar picks from the band members. It only took me 29 years to get to the front of the stage at an Reo Speedwagon show!
BG Sloan, Highland Park, N.J.: I regularly attended UI women's basketball games in the Assembly Hall (late 1980s and early 1990s?). Attendance was pretty sparse. You could easily get a front row seat if you got there early enough. One time my name was called to participate in a halftime contest. Hit one of two free throws and win a free Blimpie's sub sandwich. I thought it was a sure thing. But as I stepped up to the free throw line I noticed that several members of the men's Flyin' Illini team were seated right behind the basket. I think I remember Steve Bardo, Nick Anderson, and Kendall Gill. They were rooting for me! I choked under the pressure, and my first shot was a brick, but at least I hit the rim. Before I took my second shot, one of them yelled "C'mon, you can do it!" My second shot was a perfect swish, and those Flyin' Illini were cheering me for a shot I had made on the Assembly Hall floor. Very surreal!!!
Tony Lee, Paxton: I was ten years old in the early sixties. Our family had recently moved into Paxton from a nearby farm. My mother signed me up with a church group to travel to Champaign to see the Ice Capades at the newly opened Assembly Hall.
I had seen newspaper photos of the ongoing construction of the Hall, which was the talk of the area. But nothing could have prepared me for that first visit.
Walking toward the Hall from the parking lot, I felt like Dorothy approaching Emerald City. A gigantic spaceship had landed and I was granted access to its dazzling interior where acrobatic aliens were gliding on perfect ice that shimmered in a kaleidoscope of colors. The ice show was a delight, but for this young boy, the star of the show was the stunning venue.
I have been to hundreds of games and events at the Hall since that day, but none compare to that first trip.
Camilla Smith, Champaign: After watching the Milwaukee Bucks play and outside we saw Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) sitting in a car. I asked him for his autograph and he got out the car and all I could is look up and young kid that is a moment I will never forget
John H. Barham: I remember it like it was yesterday. It was Sept. 30 1962, my 15th birthday. My friends Bill Bassie, Ricky Young and myself played a little golf just east of the Assembly Hall. When we were finished we rode our bikes over to the unfinished building and went inside to look around. Up going thru the roof vent was a ladder. Next thing, we were on the roof. Rick was the only one with some brains; he wouldn't climb out. Bill and yours truly were looking thru the hole in the center. When we went to go back down we couldn't find where we came up, as the ridges are probably seven or so feet tall. We yelled for Rick to stick his arm out the vent. An arm came out all right: Rick was not wearing a blue uniform, (it was) the cops. Now what? We could see cop cars, and fire trucks all over. We made a dozen trips up and down the roof untill we found another vent with a ladder, clear on the other side. Down we scrambled, ran outside, hopped on our bikes and pedaled like mad for home.