Jeremy Werner

State Farm Center 'major announcement' Monday

Athletic department expected to announce court will be named after former Illini coach Lou Henson

The University of Illinois athletic department sent out a press release Sunday announcing it will make a "major announcement" regarding the State Farm Center renovation at 1 p.m. Monday.

Fans have pushed for the university to name the court after the program's all-time winningest coach, Lou Henson. It appears the university has heard those wishes.

Henson, 83, was diagnosed in June with a bone marrow disorder and started chemotherapy. Many universities sell court-naming rights to corporation, while others simply name it after a former player or coach.

During a Wednesday media tour of the facility renovation, Illinois associate athletic director Warren Hood, who is leading the project for the DIA, said unequivocally that the project will be completed on time for the Illini's Big Ten/ACC Challenge game against Notre Dame on Dec. 2. 

"We're really past any need for a contingency plan," Hood said. "We've gone through the unknowns. We've had some issues, but nothing of a major portion that would slow us down."

Hood said last week that the $169.5 million project was 64 percent complete and will be 80 percent complete before the facility opens on Dec. 2. The Illini will play an exhibition game and their first four regular-season home games at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield.

The Illini basketball facility long-time name changed from Assembly Hall to State Farm Center thanks to a 30-year, $60-million naming rights deal with the insurance giant.

The construction has occurred in several phases with construction halting during the basketball season. Most of the work done last offseason involved the footprint and innards of the stadium, as well as the replacement of the 10,000 seats in the 200 level, formerly known as C section.

The current phase includes most of the facility that fans use: re-shaping of the bowl, widening of the playing surface to allow for more students on the court, addition of loge seating and 12 suites, renovation of the east entrance, the addition of a grand west entrance, construction of an additional tunnel that the Illini will use and the addition of upper concourse bbathrooms.

The final phase -- to be completed next offseason -- will include several flashy upgrades, including a new videoboard, ribbon boards, locker rooms and a legacy club.


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