The rise of Illinois women’s basketball has caused crowds at State Farm Center to explode in volume.
Not that those who welcome fans on a nightly basis seem to mind much.
“It was just fun to be able to see the women and it’s fun to see how many people have just started coming,” said Tammy Goodling, an usher of eight years. “They’re so good and the coach is amazing, after every game she thanks people for coming, and I love that.”
Illinois’ resurgent play on the court drew a season-high 5,583 fans when the team hosted Indiana on Jan. 18. When the Illini hosted the Hooisers on Feb. 9, 2022, a mere 1,198 spectators filed through the arena’s gates.
“We had to open up the 200 level, which I have never seen at a women’s game,” said Caroline Mickes, a UI sophomore and the arena’s head event staff supervisor. “It is so nice to have the same energy and support that the men’s games have. I just love seeing the excitement for the women as much as the men.”
The team’s success has been a welcome change for longtime ushers and newcomers alike.
“It’s really the first year I’ve ever come to a women’s game and the first night I worked, it was so packed,” said first-year usher Jeri Bass.
“I thought it was always like that, they said ‘no this unusual because they’re doing so well,’ and every game we just keep getting more and more (fans), which is nice. I think it’s good for the players to have a crowd like this, and they’re really enjoying it.”