Options considered for "home" Illini games

By Anthony Antoine | aantoine@wcia.com

Published 07/07 2014 09:34PM

Updated 07/09 2014 11:33AM

Update: 10:23 pm, 7/8/14, Tuesday
CENTRAL ILLINOIS -- The University of Illinois men's basketball team could find a home away from home in Peoria. With the State Farm Center set to be under renovation the season after next, the team will be homeless for four regular season games.

Carver Arena, in Peoria, is one option the team is considering. The team's scheduled doesn't conflict with Bradley's giving them the chance to play there.

Another option Illini officials are considering is Illinois State University's Redbird Arena. It has a capacity of more than 10,000. The athletic department at ISU has offered a few potential dates. So far, ISU has not heard back from Illini officials.

The second phase of construction at the State Farm Center will not be complete until December 2015.
Original: 9:34 pm, 7/7/14, Monday
CHAMPAIGN -- The men’s and women’s basketball teams will play the entire upcoming season at the State Farm Center. That's not the case the following year.

Phase two of renovations at the State Farm Center won't be finished, so five games will have to be played somewhere else. Now, the question is where.

"There are certainly a handful of arenas in the state that would fit an Illinois basketball game," says UI Assistant Athletic Director Kent Brown.

At the beginning of the 2015 - 2016 season, SFC won't be the home of the fighting Illini. The lower levels are being removed and then rebuilt.

That means four regular season games and one exhibition game will be played outside of Champaign. Brown says that's not necessarily a bad thing.

"Sometimes those games are a challenge to sell a lot of tickets to anyway and attendance. What this does is maybe take a game to a city and a venue that doesn't normally host an Illinois basketball game that would excite a local fan base," says Brown.

Fans say it doesn't get any more local for Illini hoops than Champaign, and not surprisingly, some aren't too happy about it.

"As far as I'm concerned, the fans pay for season tickets and we want to see our team play," says Marc McMullen.

The five games won't be included in the season ticket package so it'll be cheaper, but still.

Marc McMullen says, "Find a better option."

Sam Sanathanam is the general manager at Houlihan's and the i-Hotel. He says they get tons of business before and after the game and he isn't worried.

"It's not just five games you're looking at. You're looking at the longer picture, the bigger picture. Once the stadium is built, you get more fans and you'll do better. It won't affect much because, in the future, it is going to help us more. Renovations are going to bring in even more people."

While some fans may be frustrated, McMullen says, "In the end result, I think it would be very nice."

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