Renovations on track for State Farm Center

By Sean Neumann

State Farm Center’s renovation process is going according to plan.

In some ways, the athletic department said construction crews are ahead of schedule.

“We’re definitely where we need to be,” said Warren Hood, senior associate athletic director. “We’re actually doing some work that was supposed to be done next year. We’re doing it now just to try to get ahead a little bit.” 

According to Hood, the current phase of the arena’s renovation will be completed by Illinois’ Nov. 7 home opener, an exhibition against Quincy. The project as a whole won’t be finished until prior to the 2016-17 basketball season. 

There will be no concerts at State Farm Center this year. The only event besides home basketball games will be the Illinois high school wrestling championship in the spring.

Crews replaced seating in the C-section of the State Farm Center’s bowl with blue seats and added more railings in seating sections. When the project is complete in 2016, the configuration of the lower-level seating will also be in tighter to the court, allowing fans to be closer to the action.

The seating in the A and B sections will be replaced during the next phase of renovation after this basketball season.

By the 2015-16 season, the entire floor will be flipped — allowing TV cameras to show the Orange Krush in the background during televised games. The benches will also be on the other side of the court.

Hood said fans won’t notice any construction inside the arena’s bowl.

“What they see the first day when they get in will be what they see at the end of the season, as far as inside the bowl,” Hood said.

Fans will notice the most change at entrances to State Farm Center, where they’ll enter the stadium in a roofed corridor between construction areas on the East and West sides of the building.

“It will be a clear shot in,” said Dennis Kelly, director of field operations for the project.

Kelly said the crew is focused on finishing work on walkways along the south side of the building, putting in temporary stairs around the arena’s perimeter and finishing the replacement of the seating inside the bowl. 

Weather has continued to be an issue for construction crews during this phase of the renovation, with most of the construction taking place outside during the current phase of the renovation.

Another concern is making sure the crew’s current work sets itself up in a good spot for the next phase of renovation.

“Next year, we’ve got a lot more work to do, but at least we’re going to be inside and we won’t have to worry about the weather,” Hood said.

The athletic department will be introducing an entrance and parking plan for this season to fans sometime in the next few weeks.

Kelly said construction crews have been occasionally working overnight and on weekends to ensure this phase of the renovation is completed by basketball season.

The athletic department said State Farm Center will host a mock event the week before Illinois’ November home opener to make sure things run smoothly on opening night. This will include concession vendors coming in to make sure power is running throughout the arena.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then,” Kelly said. “But we’ll play basketball.”

Sean can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @neumannthehuman.