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Assembly Hall renovation at top of UI AD list

Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther is seriously considering a major renovation of Assembly Hall — one that would have major ramificiations.
One major project, one to go. U of Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther is ready to move on from a major makeover done to his school’s football stadium and consider what to do with Assembly Hall.

The home of Illini hoops since 1963, the building is at a crossroads. It is in need of serious repair to get it up to 21st century needs or it has to be bulldozed. Guenther is well area that either idea is going to be expensive.

Finding the money is dicey enough. But here’s another question: while the work goes on, where does the team play their games?

No matter which way Guenther turns, it is likely the Illini might be homeless for a season or two.

“That would be a real challenge for a year,” he said. “The Big Ten would have to help us. We would need to work with the United Center in Chicago and look at St. Louis. One building could not handle all of our games." 

It is also a scheduling nightmare. Unlike when the NFL Bears went to Champaign for one season (while Soldier Field was being renovated), we’re talking 12-16 home games, some of which need to be scheduled at unusual times for television purposes.

Thinking ahead, Gunether is already talking to other towns that might want to host a couple of games. "We’d look at Peoria, Springfield, Bloomington," he said. “Those places are not that far but if we have to leave the building here , it is not an easy answer.”

No timetable has been set but Guenther said he would like a decision made as soon as possible. The football renovations cost $120 million. It is estimated basketball renovationbs would come in at roughly the same price.