The top-5 venues for Illinois non-revenue sports
April 15, 2014
Illinois football and men’s basketball games are the biggest events on campus. They draw the largest crowds and usually play in the most intense atmospheres. Memorial Stadium and State Farm Center are continually improved to keep them worthy of Big Ten competition.
But what about the cathedrals for the other varsity sports at Illinois? How do these venues stack up?
Below, I ranked the top-five home venues for Illinois athletics (excluding football and men’s basketball).
1. Atkins Tennis Center/Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex
The men’s and women’s tennis teams play in one of the most modern and state-of-the-art facilities on campus, and it features numerous indoor and outdoor courts. The tennis complex was looking its best during last year’s NCAA Championships, when Illinois welcomed fans from all over the country in its first time hosting the event. The facility is an all-around boon for Illinois tennis; it helps with recruiting and allows its athletes to train in any weather. Regardless of whether the play is taking place indoors or outdoors, Atkins is a great place to watch a match.
2. Huff Hall
Huff hosts events for the Illinois gymnastics and wrestling programs, but the multi-purpose arena is most feared by opponents of Illini volleyball. If you’ve never attended a volleyball match at Huff, you’re missing out. The cramped seats and dim lighting are all part of the charm of the 90-year-old arena, which can get seriously loud after an Illini kill. The student section begins at the floor and can extend all the way to the top of the balcony at the annual “Stuff Huff” match. I’m still holding out hope that Huff, the home of Illinois basketball from 1925-63, will host an Illini hoops game or two during the State Farm Center renovation.
3. Illinois Ice Arena
Like Huff, the home of Illini hockey is enhanced rather than hindered by its age. The Illinois Ice Arena was built in 1931 and can get rowdy for Illini home games because of its cozy seating arrangements. Every fan in the 2,000-seat arena is basically right on top of the ice.
4. Illinois Field/Eichelberger Field
Illinois Field sort of seems like it’s stuck in the 1980s (it was built in 1988), and it could definitely use some upgrades. The baseball diamond has been made entirely of turf since 2008, but the painted-on infield gives it a unique look. Illinois Field made the cut mainly because of my nostalgia for chasing foul balls as a kid on its grassy spectator area, and because I lumped it in with its neighbor: Illinois softball’s Eichelberger Field. The field is a nice, high-end facility that was built into the side of an Urbana hill in 2001. It has a clean, modern look that Illinois Field should strive for.
5. State Farm Center
Though the home of Illinois basketball is one of the more iconic college arenas in the country, it falls to the bottom of this list when hosting an Illini women’s basketball game. Since the women’s team generally draws sparse crowds, the game experience can feel distant and bland. Also, State Farm Center is currently engulfed in rubble due to the ongoing renovation, and the next couple of seasons will be played in a construction zone. When completed, the renovations will likely vault the arena to the top of this list. More wins and more fans wouldn’t hurt, either.
Alex is a sophomore in AHS. He can be reached at [email protected] and