Tate: Survey says ...

Tate: Survey says ...

Here's an idea. How about the Illini scheduling stronger basketball opponents at home ... and carrying that into Big Ten success!

Meaningful victories on the court would add punch to Mike Thomas' quest to renovate the half-century-old Assembly Hall.

After all these years, it is actually on the move. Thomas is out front with assurances that this massive remodeling can be pulled off even as he bucks a shaky economy and a recent slump in UI basketball fortunes.

Thomas expects long-awaited architectural renderings and design concepts from the Kansas City, Mo., firm of AECOM by early September. That will allow him to give prospective premium seat holders a visual drawing of what they're buying. Strong assurances of donor support would get this renovation steaming ahead and perhaps completed within three to four years.

A letter survey has already been mailed out to 7,000 customers to determine the interest of stalwart fans and contributors, explaining that the "unique and exclusive amenities will include hospitality suites, club seats and loge boxes."

The preliminary push, as happened prior to Memorial Stadium improvements, is to ascertain the level of financial support for the project. This has been a subject of discussion among major donors for months.

To the letter

According to the Thomas letter, the projected plan calls for 10 to 14 suites at the top of A Section, each with 12 to 14 padded chairback seats and featuring refrigerator and sink, catering, exclusive entrance to suite level, access to club area and restrooms, TVs and coat closet.

The fee is $60,000 annually, that number discounted according to the number of years contracted. The first option is five years. If 14 are sold, that would bring in more than $800,000 annually. In addition, four-seat loge boxes and club seats will bring in more than that. Clearly, Thomas already knows what to expect from AECOM, otherwise he wouldn't be able to make the projections mentioned in his survey.

Look for a quick sellout on suites. One donor informed that he has verbally signed up but, based on what he hears, might not make the cut.

This is one piece of the financial puzzle.

Like the stadium operation ($121.9 million), the Assembly Hall is expected to spill into seven figures, and will take multiple years for completion.

Economy class

Warren Hood, with the experience of heading up the stadium renaissance, is now deeply engaged in the Hall. He reports:

"We're going through the same process that we used for the stadium. The results of the stadium survey allowed us to determine the amount of premium football seating, and we hit those numbers to a T."

If times are tough economically, they were no different during much of Guenther's nearly two decades. When Guenther entered his final school year as athletic director in September 2010, he had raised $300 million for buildings, had sold out the stadium's premium seats and showed 375 donors of $10,000 or more topping $12 million annually.

The 42 for-sale football suites are sold out this season, and Hood reports 95 percent of club seats are sold, even as some contracts ran out after three years. Many of the same fans and corporations that bought stadium suites will also buy basketball suites, and Hood expects the demand to exceed availability.

The concern at Memorial Stadium isn't so much the premium seating as it is with season tickets beyond the packed horseshoe (at $99 per).

Ron Zook's last UI team averaged fewer than 45,000 for the six games other than Ohio State (55,229) and Michigan (60,670), and the 2012 home schedule doesn't have anything resembling an attraction like Michigan or Ohio State this season.

Loren Tate writes for The News-Gazette. He can be reached at ltate@news-gazette.com.


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Moonpie wrote on August 15, 2012 at 3:08 pm

That's right, Obi Wan Tate--let's make it all about catering to rich donors, and the poor average fans, which you hate, can have the leftovers. In Tateworld only a few conservative and rich luxury box owners (preferably no one from Chicago--lots of luck with that!) could attend games and sit behind Obi Wan, of course! Sort of like Romney's "vision" for Amerika -- all for the 1 percent.

TheGallopingGhost77 wrote on August 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

What are you talking about? Tate was reporting on the survey that was sent to I-Fund members.  Just because this survey wasn't sent out the the "average fan" don't take it out on Tate. And obivously you can't read numbers because if you could you would see that the Hall, much like the Stadium did, will benefit enourmously from this premium seating, allowing us to increase the budget in the Atheletic Department with new revenues.  At least with the premium seating like the suites, you will have fans that will pay up front regardless if they actually attend the game or not, which is good because it seems the average fan wasn't too keen on showing up for games this past year.  And hardly does the average fan have to eat leftovers in Champaign.  Our ticket prices for students and regular seating are some of the most affordable in the Big Ten, and the revnovations that happened to the Stadium and the Hall have and will benefit all fans.  

Jim in Blm-Normal wrote on August 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Personally, i think the configuartion of the Hall is far to shallow and the best thing would be to tear

it down and start over.   Iowa's stadium is far superior, and it pains me to admit that.

I do agree that increasing revenues would benefit the athletic department, and that should result

in better games and better teams.  Tate is correct that upgrading the home schedule is necessary

to inducing more support. 

I've held my tickets long enough that i am reconsidering the value of a season ticket featuring

mostly teams with directions in their name and teams that we do not recognize.  Add to that the

frustration with game times.   I can't leave work early enough to make 6 PM starts and hate

coming home past midnight for 8Pm starts.  And it is aggravating to see the best non-conference

games held in Chicago or St Louis.   I may consider not renewing, but then Moonpoopie can buy

the tickets and have something to do besides gripe incessantly.   My tickets are nowhere near the

1%, whatever that is supposed to be.   I think Obama's definitiion of 1% is anyone gainfully


And thank you, Moonpoopie, for verifying my belief that Obama appeals only to the stupid.

peterborich wrote on August 16, 2012 at 12:08 am

Obama appeals only to the stupid?   

Obama'a definition of the wealthy is anyone gainfully employed? 

Jim: i think you win the prize for the most idiotic comments ever postef on IlliniHQ...and that's saying a lot.   


walker wrote on August 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Sorry Pete, but Jim doesn't even come close to consideration for that award.  You and mooncakes

have the Top 10 pretty much locked up.   BTW, you and moomcakes need to take your genious

minds to the Obama campaign asap.  They need it more than this venue does.

Bear8287 wrote on August 18, 2012 at 10:08 am

Walker: "... need to take your genious minds ..."

Okay, I'll bite. What's a "genious mind"?


rocko wrote on August 16, 2012 at 1:08 pm

Actually Pete has a point here.  Obama does not appeal only to the stupid.  He also appeals to illegals, non-taxpayers and the entitlement crowd that prefers the economic model implemented in Greece.  Brilliant.

Empire2Ed wrote on August 16, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Get the political talk out of here. This is a sports website. Their are other places online for it. 


jimbo2009 wrote on August 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Stadium renovation?!?!?!  How's that working on the East foyer?????

1IlliniFan wrote on August 16, 2012 at 5:08 pm

"Insert your name" is clearly a victim of the system - we need to let him say his peace. (It's not your fault - we understand and feel sorry for you)<?xml:namespace prefix = o />

I do agree with Peter in some regards. Jim made the mistake in grouping some normal people in with some of the leftwing nut jobs... you can’t say ,all of any group of people, do one thing or another.  You just can't do it and be 100% correct.

"Insert your name" has also made remarks about the Tea Party.

Yeah, Yeah… I’ve heard the jokes about them being called Tea Baggers. (It's kinda of funny - it is...) - Or that they are racist. (Playing the victim card – like the boy that called wolf too many times)

Anyway for those who call the Tea Party – Tea Baggers – I always think back to a Snoop Dog song and in the beginning of one of the songs, he talks about "Walnuts, Chestnuts and Chin Nuts"  When I hear someone say the word Tea Bagger - I always think of YOU having Chin Nuts... - It makes me laugh every time and lets me know how lost you are.

I think Reagan said it best; "Liberals aren't stupid, it’s just that so much of what they know, just isn't true"


JohnWams wrote on August 17, 2012 at 2:08 am

Nobody is more ignorant than the Tea Party. They do the footwork for the Koch brothers, screwing America for the benefit of a few billionaires. Morons.

1IlliniFan wrote on August 17, 2012 at 9:08 am

Right.  These guys make more money - let's take it from them.  Makes sense...

We are all victims and it's the government that will save us. (i just threw up)  The US postal Service is only losing $2 Bil a quarter, SS will soon be broke, Medicate is broke.  YOU want some politician reaching into your back pocket and spending it how they see fit.

You just can't continue to spend money - that's why we lost our AAA credit rating under this president.  First time ever and it happened under Obama.  That was when the Libs controlled the Senate, the House and the White House.  You actually trust these politicians to spend your money wisely?  Seriously?

Let's talk about the State of IL.  Ran by the left for many decades...  Taxes are higher than most states - so we should be much better off, Right?  Oh, wait.  We are worse off than California.

Until spending is under control - nothing will fix our debt issues.