Illini basketball to temporarily relocate to Springfield in 2015

The Illinois men’s basketball team announced Thursday afternoon it will play five home games in Springfield in 2015-16.

Illinois will host games at Prairie Capital Convention Center in November 2015.

The team will play an exhibition game on Nov. 8 and then open the season on Nov. 13. The team will also play home games in Springfield on Nov. 15, Nov. 21, and Nov. 23 during the relocation.

Opponents for those matchups have not yet been announced.

The Illini are forced to temporarily relocate the home games due to the renovations being done at State Farm Center.

The second phase of the three-phase renovation project is expected to be completed by Dec. 1, 2015.

The Prairie Capital Convention Center seats 7,700, a significantly less than the 17,085 State Farm Center holds.

“We are hard at work transforming State Farm Center into one of the finest basketball venues in the country,” Illinois director of athletics Mike Thomas said in a press release. “And as we have known since the beginning of the project, we will not be able to host games next season until December due to the renovation schedule. We are thrilled to partner with the Prairie Capital Convention Center as we move five home games to our state capital.”

The Springfield relocation will provide a central location for Illini basketball fans throughout the state, but not for University students, who will have to travel 90 miles for the home games.

Illinois will transport the playing surface, baskets, bench chairs and the scorer’s table to Springfield in order to recreate the feeling of playing at home.

The Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics said information about tickets for the games will be announced at a later date.

“We are so excited to be able to support the University during this time of renovation at State Farm Center, and are certain our local U of I faithful and Fighting Illini sports fans from around the state will support these games and provide a true home-court experience during the team’s stay here,” said Brian Oaks, general manager of the Springfield arena.

Head coach John Groce said the partnership with Prairie Capital Convention Center allows the team to have a “true home away from home” during the renovation.

Playing in Springfield minimizes the team’s travel schedule, allowing them to cover five games in just three trips – staying for practice in between the Nov. 13 and Nov.15 games, as well as the Nov. 21 and Nov. 23 games.