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Some University students get first State Farm Center experience

Fireworks+go+off+as+the+Illinois+basketball+team+comes+onto+the+floor+before+the+game+against+Ohio+State+at+the+State+Farm+Center+on+Thursday%2C+January+28.+The+Illini+lost+in+overtime+68-63.
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Some University students get first State Farm Center experience

Fireworks go off as the Illinois basketball team comes onto the floor before the game against Ohio State at the State Farm Center on Thursday, January 28. The Illini lost in overtime 68-63.

Fireworks go off as the Illinois basketball team comes onto the floor before the game against Ohio State at the State Farm Center on Thursday, January 28. The Illini lost in overtime 68-63.

Austin Yattoni

Fireworks go off as the Illinois basketball team comes onto the floor before the game against Ohio State at the State Farm Center on Thursday, January 28. The Illini lost in overtime 68-63.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Fireworks go off as the Illinois basketball team comes onto the floor before the game against Ohio State at the State Farm Center on Thursday, January 28. The Illini lost in overtime 68-63.

By Abby Paeth, Assistant features editor

Karsen Kopmann grew up watching concerts at State Farm Center, but since he’s been a student, things have changed.

The junior in FAA attended so many concerts in what was then called the Assembly Hall that he can’t remember exactly who performed. Despite his frequent attendance as a youth and currently as a cheerleader at Illinois men’s basketball games, Kopmann has never been to a concert at the arena as a student.

He’ll finally get his chance Thursday when Dierks Bentley performs the arena’s first concert in over two years.

“It’s honestly awesome because I’ve always wanted to have concerts while I was here in college, and I’ve been waiting for it to happen again,” Kopmann said.

Students and community members from all over Central Illinois will flood into the newly renovated State Farm Center for its first concert since 2014.

Country star Dierks Bentley will be the first of three concerts happening this weekend — Bentley will start the weekend Thursday night, The 1975 will play Friday night and Pentatonix will perform Saturday.

Darius Rucker was the last performance held at State Farm Center before the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics started the projected $169.5 million renovation over two years ago.

State Farm Center is the third-largest arena in Illinois behind the United Center in Chicago and the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois, which is in the Chicagoland area. The arena has a 15,000-person capacity for basketball games; however, the capacity will be about 9,000 for the concerts because of the staging configuration.

New renovations at State Farm Center have brought some considerable changes to the arena, including wheelchair accessibility, new bathrooms on the upper level concourses, new concession stands and air conditioning for the entire arena.

Other upgrades include enhanced dressing rooms and an updated backstage area, which makes the arena more desirable for artists to come perform.

“We want (performers) to choose to come to Champaign and come to State Farm Center as opposed to going somewhere in Peoria, Bloomington or Springfield because we have the newest and best arena available in the Central Illinois market,” said Brad Swanson, assistant director of marketing and sales at State Farm Center.

That availability is how those managing State Farm Center strive to bring a variety of acts to campus to attract a more diverse audience. During this academic year, performance genres range from country, rock, hip-hop, a cappella and even a Christmas special. Some performances will allow for student discounts, but the artist decides whether those discounts will apply to their show.

Sara Lemenager, junior in ACES, will attend the Dierks Bentley show and take advantage of what she considers a great opportunity for the area.

“(The arena) shows that we have an amazing draw for bigger names that are willing to come out to the middle of nowhere,” Lemenager said.

Since Thursday is the first performance in over two years, the Class of 2017 is the only current class that would have had the opportunity to attend a concert in the past. Much has changed since the Darius Rucker concert, and Swanson hopes that students who’ve seen past performances can enjoy the vast differences in the new concert experience.

“I think they’ll notice the upgrades that have been done to the building, and hopefully they appreciate that and have a better experience as a fan,” Swanson said.

Swanson and his staff have also battled with the struggle of informing underclassmen on the upcoming performances because they might not have previously known that large concerts are performed on campus, especially at an arena the size of the State Farm Center.

“We’re going to have to educate students that we are a major concert venue and that we’re really convenient for them and that they can come see the biggest acts in music literally blocks away from their dorms or apartments,” Swanson said.

Kopmann thinks the renovation unites students on campus with the rest of the community because it will help everyone bond over a shared interest. He also said he likes having a large arena on campus because it eliminates having to travel to Peoria or the Chicago area to see popular artists.

“We’re a first-class facility. I think anytime you have facilities that can compete nationally as far as the quality and the amount of investments that are put into them, it reflects well on the institution,” Swanson said.

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