Groce behind return of state tournament
CHAMPAIGN — Count Illinois coach John Groce among those who would like to see the IHSA boys’ state basketball championships return to UI campus.
After the IHSA announced it was accepting bids from cities wishing to host the state championships from 2016 to ’20, local tourism bureau Visit Champaign County and the UI said they would be putting together a bid to have the finals return to State Farm Center.
“I think it would mean a lot,” Groce said. “It’s a process we’re involved in right now and looking forward to seeing it to fruition.”
The state title games were held in Champaign from the 1930s to 1995 before moving to the Peoria’s Carver Arena, where they’ve been held for the last 19 years. The goal for high school players in the state now is to get to Peoria. Groce would like that to shift back to Champaign and the UI, specifically.
“Having a kid get up every day thinking about getting to Champaign, coming to Champaign, playing in the State Farm Center is pretty special,” he said. “We’re the state school and any time you get an opportunity to have such a prestigious event like the state boys’ basketball tournament here in Champaign, I think it means a great deal, not only to our community but to our university and the state.”
State Farm Center is currently undergoing a $157 million renovation in phases and is expected to be completed in time for the 2016-17 basketball season.
“It’s fitting well with the timeline of the arena. I feel like our arena’s going to be as nice as any in the country,” Groce said. “The timing of it just meshes well.”
The IHSA is expected to make a decision regarding the venue of the future state tournaments by March of 2015.
“It’s very important for our community. Obviously it was here for some time. We’d love to get it back and I’d love to be a part of that process and that push,” Groce said. “I think it’s really important that we work very diligently to get it back to Champaign.”