CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — Work could begin in early 2018 on a $132 million project to build new football offices, locker rooms and training facilities at the University of Illinois’ Memorial Stadium, athletic director Josh Whitman said Monday.
The school’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics is raising money for the project that will also include renovating seating areas on two sides of the stadium, he said. It is in the process of hiring an architect before asking university trustees for approval, likely next spring, Whitman said.
He emphasized that the project will include no state money, instead relying on donations and revenue generated by the school’s sports operations. Whitman emphasized those funding sources at a time when Illinois has no budget and public universities have received only a fraction of the state funding they would typically get over the past year.
The school, though, would not sell naming rights as it did for the renovation of the basketball arena, now known as the State Farm Center.
The project would come after $121 million in renovations completed in 2008 and help Illinois build on momentum that began building this year when Lovie Smith was hired as head coach in March, Whitman said.
“Our goal is to be in a position to compete for a national championship,” said Whitman, who became athletic director in February.
The stadium changes should help Smith attract better recruits, Whitman said. Illinois has had just four winning teams in the past 15 seasons.
Football offices, locker rooms and training facilities that are now on the north end of the stadium would be moved to a new south stand. The east-side stands would also get new concessions areas and elevators, as well as changes such as wider aisles to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Details are not yet set, but Whitman said he wants to move fans closer to the field in the south end zone, as he noted fans were for Illinois’ game last Saturday at Nebraska.
South end-zone work would be complete by summer 2019 and east-side work a year later.
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