Memorial Stadium Renovation Approval

CHICAGO, Ill. — The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics announces the Board of Trustees approval for the $116 million renovation project of historic Memorial Stadium. The 83-year-old facility will undergo its first major construction since its inaugural season in 1923.

The renovation project is slated to begin following the completion of the 2006 football season and IHSA championship football games. Construction will occur on the north, west and east sides of the stadium, with permanent seating on the north end being completed for the 2007 season. The remaining areas, which include the east and west side, should wrap up in time for the 2008 season.

Among the renovation on the west side is the addition of luxury suites, indoor and outdoor club areas and a refurbishment of the concourses. An outdoor club space, the Colonnades Club, will be added under the west balcony and will allow for indoor game day hospitality, as well as outdoor chair back seats for contest viewing. In the west balcony, a three-level structure will be built 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 "77 Club" to honor the retired number of Illinois gridiron legend Harold "Red" Grange.

The entire project will be conducted to keep the stadium in a functioning capacity for the Illinois football team during the time of construction.

The funding comes in large part from the sales of suites, club seats and naming rights, which covers nearly 85 percent of the total cost. The remaining 15 percent will be funded by a ticket surcharge, beginning in 2006.

Sales began in mid-November of 2005 and have been successful in filling 45 of its 48 available suites, 186-of-200 "77 Club" seats and nearly 60 percent of the "Colonnades Club" area, in just a five-month span.

The full funding of the project allows the DIA to meet five major goals:

• To build a modern facility, while maintaining the historic nature of the World War I-dedicated building. All design plans for the stadium have gone to great lengths to keep the full exterior of the facility in its current state.

• To enhance the game day experience for all spectators. The project includes the addition and improvements to restrooms, concessions, access to seats and disability seating.

• To take care of all deferred maintenance. Due to the age of the facility, this project will allow the DIA to modernize, bring up to code and meet required building standards. The stadium will upgrade electrical, plumbing and structural needs.

• To create a destination. With the addition of the 77 Club and Colonnades Club space, Memorial Stadium will now be a facility used on a year-round basis. The design makes areas a perfect choice for banquets, receptions, conferences and meetings.

• To assist in recruiting efforts of the highest level of student-athlete. The commitment to this project will allow Illinois' coaches to continue to recruit the elite student-athletes and compete at the highest level.

The architectural firm HNTB of Kansas City, Mo., was selected to design the renovation and Hunt Construction Managers will handle the construction. HNTB is credited with many of the most recent athletic facility renovations, including Purdue's Ross-Ade Stadium, Ohio State's Ohio Stadium, Iowa's Kinnick Stadium and Denver's Invesco Field. Hunt has been in collaboration on many of the same facilities, as well as Detroit's Ford Field, St. Louis' new Busch Stadium, and Citizen's Bank Park in Philadelphia.

Illini Inquirer Top Stories