Stadium renovations build Illini team spirit

By Daniel Johnson

‘Illinois Renaissance’ is more than just a slogan to its football players. The renovations represent something that has been long in the works, something that the team’s effort over the past two years has directly effected and is a by-product of winning – something players believe will now be perpetuated.

“For all of this stuff that we’re getting, that’s what top-of-the-line programs have,” senior linebacker Brit Miller said. “For a while, not facility-wise, but players-wise and wins, we didn’t deserve that stuff. We’re expected to win. Coach (Zook) expects us to and to do it right with top-of-the-line facilities; it’s all a part of a winning program.”

Most of the renovations went toward the fans: an estimated $120 million west-side renovation, the Colonnades Club, 77 Club, improved ancillary facilities and other amenities to boot.

But the players will be affected differently, thanks to a $5 million performance center and a recruit center overseeing Zuppke Field. Defensive tackle David Lindquist spoke Tuesday about how the new facilities will be an obvious draw for recruits – both for the pristine field and the now biggest football-only weight room in the nation – as well as non-football students.

“People who want to come to this school as regular students are being affected too,” Lindquist said. “If you know a school you’re considering has a good football team, you’re going to be attracted to it.”

Lindquist also knows players that come after him will feel the effects of the new renovations. For the players, it was more about changing the image of the University to one that will, as Lindquist said, draw both non-football and football-playing students.

“It should be very positive; we got a ton of stuff coming in, a new weight room coming in that will be one of the best in the nation,” Lindquist said. “We’re marketing this University the way that we should be; it’s top notch and people are really going to be able to see that.”

And while the changes are welcome, for some who pine for a historic feel, the renovations might be something that takes away from a certain mystique. Much like purists who don’t want to change Wrigley Field or Fenway Park too much, some may have wanted Memorial Stadium to stay the same for the sake of staying the same.

But Miller, the resident history major, appreciates it; he wasn’t too broken up when he heard of the changes to Memorial Stadium.

“To tell you the truth,” Miller said laughing, searching for words, “the stadium hasn’t changed much; we just added to it. It’s a part of history, man. It’s life in action. It’s just written down. We’re just adding onto it, and with Coach Zook here, he deserves that.”