Fencing off lot to signal start of State Farm Center work
Southeast parking area to be closed a couple of years
CHAMPAIGN — The massive renovation of State Farm Center kicks off Wednesday as the university cordons off one of its parking lots for a staging ground.
If you tend to park in the southeast lot, which has been a pay lot this year, you'll have to look elsewhere when attending games or concerts for the next couple years. After Tuesday's men's basketball game (7 p.m. vs. Dartmouth), a construction fence will go up and the southeast parking lot will become the permanent staging ground for construction equipment.
"We're very excited to get the actual work started and the process beginning. We're certainly looking forward to continuing to watch the changes over the next three years," said Tom Michael, associate athletic director with the UI's Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.
Work on the $165 million project will be conducted in several different phases to accommodate two men's basketball seasons, with the center to be finished by the start of the 2016-2017 basketball season.
The first phase starting this winter will involve earth work (digging around the building), and utility work, such as upgrading water lines, heating ducts and other mechanical work.
Cars will be allowed to park in the lot for Tuesday's game, but after the game, the construction fence will go up.
Closing that lot to the public will reduce the number of available parking spaces by about 500. There are a total of four "quads" for parking around State Farm Center, with each containing about 500 spaces, according to Michael.
"We're not anticipating any traffic concerns. We intentionally did not put that lot as a pass lot for this basketball season because we knew it wouldn't be available for the entire (basketball) season," Michael said.
Work inside the building will commence after basketball season. The last men's home basketball game is March 4 (6 p.m. vs. Michigan).
"We'll have 36 hours to get out of the building," he said, before the building is turned over to the contractors.
The university has started cleaning and clearing some things out in the backstage area.
The first phase of the interior work will likely involve demolition on the east and west sides of the building.
"In that phase, we'll also be putting new seats in the C section as we know it today.
"Mechanical work will be ongoing throughout the entire project because a big part of what we're doing is adding air conditioning, and that is going to take some considerable time to put all that infrastructure in," Michael said.