UI's Whitman eager to maintain facilities

UI's Whitman eager to maintain facilities

SAVOY — Facilities are never far from the mind of Josh Whitman.

Whether it's improving the ones currently on the Illinois campus or having donor interest for a possible new facility, the Illinois athletic director knows these venues are of keen interest.

Venturing down Fourth Street near Memorial Stadium will prove that point. Even with snow on the ground, the new football performance center — which will cost nearly $80 million — is in the groundbreaking phase. Projections are still in place for the new building to open in time before the 2019 football season kicks off in 19 months.

"It's a great opportunity for us," Whitman said on Monday night, appearing at Buffalo Wild Wings as part of Illinois men's basketball coach Brad Underwood's weekly radio show. "Unless you're involved in the day-to-day operations of college football, you just don't realize how much time our players and our coaches put in each week. When you see our coaches in those buildings for 17-18 hours a day ... it's really a home away from home for them, and we're really proud of what this home will look like."

Across the street from Memorial Stadium is the Ubben Basketball Complex, home to practice courts, office spaces and other amenities for the UI men's and women's hoops teams. Later this year, Ubben will mark its 20th year as the Illini's standalone basketball practice facility.

"That facility has had a really interesting life cycle," Whitman said. "There was a period of time where there were a lot of schools coming in to see it and use it for what they might work on. Now, as it tends to happen, it's become a bit outdated. We have some work to do there. It will continue to be the home of Illinois basketball in the future, but at some point in the not-too-distant future, we'll do a facelift to that facility to make sure it thrives for 20 more years."

Whitman didn't specify a timeline for Ubben or what upgrades might take place, but added the renovations at State Farm Center that were fully completed by November 2016 have made the venue "as good, if not better than anything out there."

A sport that doesn't currently exist at Illinois — hockey — could add to the venue list that Illinois has to offer. Whether that venue is on the UI campus or possibly at a proposed downtown arena remains to be seen, much like if the Illini will actually have hockey in its future.

"I'm still very excited about the prospect of bringing it here to Champaign," Whitman said. "We're confident that it could be successful, that we'd have a great team and that we'd have tremendous support. The challenge is funding. Hockey is incredibly expensive. We're in the process right now of having a number of conversations with different people about it. We hope to make a decision on that in the not-too-distant future."

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MasterOfTheObvious wrote on January 08, 2018 at 11:01 pm

Maybe you should win a Big Ten game in football or men's basketball before you think about adding hockey?

Perhaps take care of gymnastics, volleyball, baseball with decent facilities that are not at the bottom of the Big Ten.

#WeWillWinAtSomePointButNotRemotelyAnytimeSoon

When will football hire a new OC?  DB coach?

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