Convincing Joe Fan to attend a college basketball game has never been harder. It's no different for other sporting events or movies, theaters and concert halls. Staying at home and watching everything on TV from the comfort of your couch has never been better.
---EMBARGOED UNTIL JUNE 24---
CHAMPAIGN — Convincing Joe Fan to attend a college basketball game has never been harder.
It's no different for other sporting events or movies, theaters and concert halls. Staying at home and watching everything on TV from the comfort of your couch has never been better.
So college administrators must provide some entertainment opportunities of their own, and Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas will keep that in mind when the school overhauls Assembly Hall over the next few years.
"There’s competition at home now,'' said Thomas. "They’re watching 50-, 60-, 70-inch HD televisions with surround sound and the restroom a short walk and the kitchen a short walk.''
The biggest in-person draws are a winning team and the energy it creates.
"That's 1-A,'' Thomas said. "The 1-B is all the things we talk about with the remodeled Assembly Hall. You talk about a fan-friendly, customer-friendly facility.''
A project estimated in the range of $160 million would update the 50-year-old Assembly Hall. Engineers have made three visits to campus, and AECom Inc. is already producing schematic drawings that will likely be delivered later this summer.
"That really gives us a tool to take on the street as far as getting support,'' Thomas said.
Illinois athletic department officials will use those plans in searching for funding from private benefactors. If all goes to plan, the project would get under way next spring.
So what do you get for $160 million, give or take a few million?
The wish list is for widened concourses, more restrooms and concessions and a merchandise area. The plan also calls for air conditioning to be added. The inner bowl of the Hall — the seating configuration — would be reshaped. The plan is to drop the floor 5 feet, and premium seating will likely include club and luxury box options.
More students would be located closer to the court, and the lowered floor is expected to limit obstructed views behind the Orange Krush student section, whose members often stand the entire game.
But Thomas says it’s still just a building without a winner on the court.
"Once you get that energy and excitement in the building -- especially with winning -- if you bottle that, people are excited about coming back to the venue to watch the Fighting Illini play,'' he said.
John Supinie can be reached at Johnsupinie@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JohnSupinie.