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Music is a Big Part of the “Illinois Renaissance” at the Fighting Illini’s State Farm Center

Apr 09, 2015
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Music is a Big Part of the “Illinois Renaissance” at the Fighting Illini’s State Farm Center

March Madness may have come to a close, but the Fighting Illini are just getting started. Six days a week, 20 hours a day for the next eight months, The University of Illinois State Farm Center (SFC) is gonna be running drills—of the power tool variety.

This two-year, $169.5 million “Illinois Renaissance” project has entered its supremely intense fourth phase. According to the Daily Illini, the to-do list includes rebuilding the lower bowl; putting in suites, two clubs, new restrooms and concessions; and building out the entrances on the east and west sides of the arena.

What the to-do list also includes is something that is often overlooked but can make all the difference to fans and players alike—the entertainment factor. With the arena revamp will come an extensive fan-centric rebuild of the sound systems, video boards, flat-panel displays and in-suite entertainment, in a collaborative design and build effort by the sports worlds’ top fan experience designers, WJHW, Pro Media / UltraSound (PM/US) and CV Lloyde.

The energy level at stadiums is on a much higher level now than when the Fighting Illini’s home opened in 1963. Back then, the Daily Illini reminds us, “fans would go to the game, watch the game and leave. Sports arenas weren’t full-fledged entertainment venues.” Today, stadiums and arenas are absolutely a destination. Fans expect all five senses to be dazzled with a memorable game-day experience they can’t find at home on the sofa.

“The arena is a dance club where there happen to be some people bouncing a ball around in the middle,” laughs Ted Leamy, PM/US COO. But he speaks from experience, as a technical systems designer and operator who has made quite a few stadiums into high-level entertainment attractions.

This particular project reunites Leamy with audio industry colleague and CV Lloyde owner Stephen Morris, who during their mutual tenures at one of the world’s largest audio manufacturers, Harman Pro Group, oversaw the development of much of the technology that will provide the audiovisual oomph at SFC, as specified by systems design consulting firm WJHW.

With the amount of audio expertise on the job, SFC management knows that when there isn’t a ball in play, the arena will server just fine as a kind of dance club. The hall will reopen for concerts and other shows in the autumn of 2016.

"We'll be back with a vengeance in bringing back national touring shows and will be aggressive as always in bringing them here," State Farm Center director Kevin Ullestad told The News-Gazette. "There's been a huge void the past couple years without the big shows. We realize the market will be very anxious and we're excited to show off the new facility. It will be incredible.”