Illinois Memorial Stadium Holiday Road Trip 2

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By Paul M. Banks

When Illinois takes on Ohio State on Saturday November 15th, it will be the final game of their first new season in their fancy new digs. (Sort of) After the 2006 season, a $160 million renovation project known as Illinois Renaissance began on Memorial Stadium, the Fighting Illini’s home field. New permanent stands were completed in August of 2007, with a new student and band seating section buzzing with “Zook Zone” towels on game day. The remainder of the stadium work was essentially completed in September, right in time for the home opener. The west side added luxury suites, indoor and outdoor club areas and a refurbishment of the concourses that now feature an illustrated timeline of Illinois history. There are pictures and/or banners of Jeff George, Red Grange, Dick Butkus, Ron Turner and many more. An outdoor club space was added under the west balcony: the Colonnades Club which features outdoor seats for game spectators in a weather-protected area.

A three-level structure was built above the west balcony to house two floors of suites and an indoor club space, as well as a new press box for media seating and game day operations. The indoor club, which seats 200, has been named the “77 Club” to honor the retired number of Illinois gridiron legend Harold “Red” Grange. In addition, a new FieldTurf playing surface was installed at Memorial Stadium prior to this season. And of course, the press box which I sat in on Homecoming is a huge upgrade from the one during my college paper days. This new media workplace is so much better it may as well be on an entirely different planet from the old one. The entire Renaissance project was conducted while keeping the stadium in a functioning capacity.

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Illinois’ record in Memorial Stadium is 236-200-14 entering this season. They head into their clash with the Buckeyes 4-1 at home, but a very disappointing 5-5 overall. Most college football experts predicted Illinois to finish as the Big Ten’s third or at least fourth best team in conference. The Illini have played this season as college football’s perfect example of a Webster definition of “mediocrity.” They will most likely need to sweep their last two games to qualify for the postseason.

For a comprehensive look at the renovation process from start to finish http://www.athletics.uiuc.edu/renaissance/

Memorial Stadium has been the site of many other notable events, including the first-ever “Farm Aid,” organized by Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and was held September 22, 1985, the Illinois High School Association Football Championships (since 1999) and Chicago Bears home games (in 2002, while Soldier Field was being renovated).  In 1990, the old stadium saw more history as current Big Ten Network analyst and Super Bowl winner Howard Griffith set an NCAA record, rushing for 8 touchdowns in a blowout win over Southern Illinois. And on homecoming, we saw “the world’s largest basketball practice,” a pre-midnight madness event held on a court installed in between the horseshoe and south end zone. Attendance figures for this are unscientific, but I’m pretty sure that no larger crowd ever has or ever will see senior guard Trent Meacham run lay-up drills again.

Illinois Renaissance Project

When Illinois takes on Ohio State on Saturday November 15th, it will be the final game of their first new season in their fancy new digs. (Sort of) After the 2006 season, a $160 million renovation project known as Illinois Renaissance began on Memorial Stadium, the Fighting Illini’s home field. New permanent stands were completed in August of 2007, with a new student and band seating section buzzing with “Zook Zone” towels on game day. The remainder of the stadium work was essentially completed in September, right in time for the home opener. The west side added luxury suites, indoor and outdoor club areas and a refurbishment of the concourses that now feature an illustrated timeline of Illinois history. There are pictures and/or banners of Jeff George, Red Grange, Dick Butkus, Ron Turner and many more. An outdoor club space was added under the west balcony: the Colonnades Club which features outdoor seats for game spectators in a weather-protected area.

illcheers3.jpg

A three-level structure was built above the west balcony to house two floors of suites and an indoor club space, as well as a new press box for media seating and game day operations. The indoor club, which seats 200, has been named the “77 Club” to honor the retired number of Illinois gridiron legend Harold “Red” Grange. In addition, a new FieldTurf playing surface was installed at Memorial Stadium prior to this season. And of course, the press box which I sat in on Homecoming is a huge upgrade from the one during my college paper days. This new media workplace is so much better it may as well be on an entirely different planet from the old one. The entire Renaissance project was conducted while keeping the stadium in a functioning capacity.

Illinois’ record in Memorial Stadium is 236-200-14 entering this season. They head into their clash with the Buckeyes 4-1 at home, but a very disappointing 5-5 overall. Most college football experts predicted Illinois to finish as the Big Ten’s third or at least fourth best team in conference. The Illini have played this season as college football’s perfect example of a Webster definition of “mediocrity.” They will most likely need to sweep their last two games to qualify for the postseason.

For a comprehensive look at the renovation process from start to finish http://www.athletics.uiuc.edu/renaissance/

ill3.jpg

Memorial Stadium has been the site of many other notable events, including the first-ever “Farm Aid,” organized by Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson and was held September 22, 1985, the Illinois High School Association Football Championships (since 1999) and Chicago Bears home games (in 2002, while Soldier Field was being renovated).  In 1990, the old stadium saw more history as current Big Ten Network analyst and Super Bowl winner Howard Griffith set an NCAA record, rushing for 8 touchdowns in a blowout win over Southern Illinois. And on homecoming, we saw “the world’s largest basketball practice,” a pre-midnight madness event held on a court installed in between the horseshoe and south end zone. Attendance figures for this are unscientific, but I’m pretty sure that no larger crowd ever has or ever will see senior guard Trent Meacham run lay-up drills again.



Holiday Road Trip Schedule

On Deck: Ohio Stadium (the horseshoe)
In the hole: New England Patriots followed by the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks

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Comments

  1. why am I not surprised there is a pic of cheerleaders stretching??? SICA chick/EIU Cheerleader should be all about it…

  2. It’s a symbiotic relationship: cheerleaders love to have their picture taken and publicized, and I know what my site readers are looking for…speaking of attractive people on the sidelines of B10 sports, I just saw you, Dave courtside for the Wis-LBS game on Big 10 Netw.

    yes I have a feeling EIU Cheerledaer/SICA Chick will be active in the comment threads this week

  3. EIU Cheerleader/SICA Chick says

    Those girls were on the T.F. South cheerleading squad with me…just kidding. I can still stretch like that

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