The Illinois Renaissance Continues

Oct 05, 2016 01:38 PM

It started in March 2016, with the hire of coaching icon Lovie Smith. It continues now, with dramatic upgrades coming soon to the Fighting Illini football facilities. Plans call for a brand-new 107,650 square foot, $79.2 million Illinois Football Performance Center to be constructed next to the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility, and adjacent to Memorial Stadium. Future Phase 2 plans call for expansions of Memorial Stadium's south and east sides.

Make no mistake: before the nation’s best and brightest student-athletes are competing for us, we are competing for them.


Driving the project is the need to update our outdated football facilities. Today’s program bears little resemblance to that which existed 30 years ago, when the current football operations complex was constructed. The football staff has grown substantially. Improvements to technology and methodology have changed the way players and coaches interact, train, prepare, and recover. Advancements in sports medicine and strength training have outpaced our facility’s ability to house them. As a result, we are missing critical opportunities for our football student-athletes to prepare and develop, constrained by the limited functionality of our current facilities.


Of equal importance is the impact a quality facility has on recruiting. To win football games and pursue championships, we need top student-athletes from around the country to choose the University of Illinois to further their educations and their football careers. The competition for talent is fierce and pits us against tradition-rich football programs from coast to coast. To win in this race, we must offer exceptional leadership and resources that allow our student-athletes to realize every ounce of their potential. World-class facilities are an important part of the equation as well. Our facilities must demonstrate an institutional commitment to building, supporting, and sustaining a winning football program.


The timeline is aggressive. Construction on the new football performance center will break ground in early 2018, with the project scheduled for completion prior to the start of the 2019 season.

Once the football performance center is completed and the team is playing at a high level, Phase 2 plans call for improvements to Memorial Stadium itself. On the stadium’s east side, fans will enjoy new restrooms and concessions and improved accessibility in the form of new entrances and elevators. Most compelling, however, are the changes intended for the south end of the stadium. There, the “horseshoe" stands will be demolished, replaced by a new south grandstand. In addition to amenities similar to those that will be found on the renovated east side, the area will feature greater seating capacity, with fans much closer to the action on the field. The grandstand will enclose the entire stadium, making it feel more intimate for our fans and more intimidating for our opponents. A timeline for the stadium renovations will be announced at a later date.

As proud members of the Illini family, we invite you to join us as we build the future of Illinois Football.