Assembly Hall renovations uncertain

File photo Erica Magda

File photo Erica Magda

By Michael Logli

Though plans to renovate Assembly Hall are still uncertain, University officials are already strategizing ways to work around student events.

Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Renee Romano said that although the University currently expects to keep the basketball team at Assembly Hall and continue the renovation during the season, the University would find a way to work while still using the arena.

“I’ve worked with a lot of architects and they can be very creative,” Romano said.

Assembly Hall Director Kevin Ullestad said that the team cannot simply be moved to another nearby location.

No other facility in the area, including Huff Hall, would be able to accommodate the team and its fans.

“The team can’t play at Champaign High School or Chicago,” Ullestad said. “It’s not like when the Bears came to Memorial Stadium.”

Along with sporting events, University officials also hope to continue the Star Course program.

The student-run program works to bring live acts to the University that would otherwise be too small for Assembly Hall by using other venues like Foellinger Auditorium.

Romano said that because the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics is now working with Student Affairs and Assembly Hall, the Star Course concerts can be brought to other venues such as the baseball field or Memorial Stadium.

Ullestad suggested that a show could accompany a softball or baseball game immediately afterwards, a move he said other universities use often.

“It’s all about the experience,” Ullestad said. “We could have a baseball game and a show right after that.”

Ullestad also said that the University was able to hold off on changes to Assembly Hall because of renovations in 1999 that have kept it updated.

Because of the renovated backstage, locker rooms, kitchen and dining room, the hall has been able to keep attracting popular acts and host many successful events.

However, the consulting group that conducted the initial surveys in 2002-2003 will need to modernize their plans while making sure the structure is sound. Because of this, the process may take more time.

“There’s a lot to be looked at,” Ullestad said.