Updated: Temporary digs for Illini

Updated: Temporary digs for Illini

CHAMPAIGN — The Illinois men’s basketball team will play five home games away from State Farm Center during the 2015-16 season because a phase of construction will not be finished at State Farm Center until Dec. 1, 2015.  

Where should Illinois play? Give Tom Kacich your idea here

Illinois executive senior associate athletic director Jason Lener said Monday that Illinois will play one exhibition game and four nonconference games away from Champaign.

“It’s really construction-driven,” Lener said. “We don’t have a location finalized, but we are working on some options. We will have something finalized in the next couple of months.”

Wherever Illinois does wind up with its games Lener said Huff Hall is off the table.

He didn’t disclose other possible sites Illinois is considering.

“We’re looking for different venues throughout the state, but it would be off-campus,” Lener said. “Huff just isn’t big enough to accommodate the type of crowds we draw. It does present some challenges, too, because it is just set up for volleyball. It would be nice to have them there and it would be a great environment, but the building just presents some challenges.”

Lener said John Groce and his coaching staff have stayed heavily involved in the process throughout.

“They’ve been looking at this since Day 1 and looking at dates trying to minimize this,” Lener said. “Coach has been great with this.”

Lener said Illinois is still in the process of trying to determine the financial aspect of the move regarding what the school would pay a new venue and how this would affect season-ticket holders.

“It’s going to reduce the cost of the season ticket, and we’re trying to figure out what that’s going to look like before we come out to the masses with this,” Lener said. “The sooner we can get the location finalized, the better. Some of the venues we’re working with, they’ve already got other events plugged in.”

Illinois State athletic department spokeswoman Lauren Hutchcraft said Illinois has reached out to the university in Normal, which has Redbird Arena on its campus.

“Illinois did request dates from us,” she said, “and we provided availability for Redbird Arena during that time.”

She declined to disclose any other information.

Peoria Civic Center general manager Jim Wetherington told the Peoria Journal-Star on Monday Illinois has contacted the venue in downtown Peoria.

Carver Arena is the home venue for Bradley.

“They reached out to us to see what the opportunities are,”  Wetherington told the newspaper. “We’ve talked with them about available dates, but there’s nothing else to confirm or deny at this point.”

Bart Rogers, the vice president and general manager at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, said his venue hasn't received any contact from Illinois.

"We would welcome looking at hosting (their) games," Rogers said. "With our location in the middle of the state and close proximity to Champaign, it would fit perfect."

Pat Nagle, the executive director at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, said his venue has not received any calls yet from Illinois about the Illini playing at DePaul's home arena.

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PortlandIllini wrote on July 07, 2014 at 4:07 pm

C'mon Coach Groce,    just ONE game with retro uniforms in Huff Hall.    It would be just as big an event as the football team playing at Wrigley Field.   
  

Lefty55 wrote on July 07, 2014 at 5:07 pm

They should be playing one game at All State arena every year. 

jeffh wrote on July 08, 2014 at 11:07 am

While I absolutely get the appeal of a game or two at Huff Gym, as someone who attended the final game there on February 23, 1963, I'm of two minds about this.  

I think it would be great to let folks today experience one of the greatest atmospheres that could ever exist for a sporting event and somehow it just seems prudent that the University would have an alternate on-campus venue for basketball.  

But on the other hand, deep in my heart I'm glad that the last Illini team to play there was Dave Downey, Bill Small, Bill Burwell, Bob Starnes and Tal Brody, and part of me hopes it always will be.

And FWIW, I was in 4th grade when I went to the last game! :)