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PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 25, No. 2, July 21, 2005

Trustees discuss new hotel/restaurant and Memorial Stadium renovations

Resolution passes to retain the names “Illini” and “Fighting Illini”

By Sabryna Cornish, UIC News Bureau, and
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor, Inside Illinois

At their meeting in Chicago on July 14, the UI Board of Trustees approved the construction of a hotel and restaurant near the Research Park on the Urbana campus.

The 68,000-square-foot facility would be constructed, furnished and operated consistent with the AAA 4-diamond rating, more upscale than anything that exists now near the university. The $15 million complex would be built south of Assembly Hall on the southeast corner of First Street and St. Mary’s Road.

“We do not have a hotel of this quality,” Chancellor Richard Herman said. “This could make the Urbana-Champaign area a destination. The university will play a key part in that.”

The five-story hotel would have luxury suites on the top floors. Each guest room would contain upscale furnishings. The 120-room hotel would be designed so that it could be expanded by another 80 rooms.

The complex would include an 8,300-square-foot full-service restaurant with seating for 245 patrons. The restaurant would include a private dining room with an outdoor deck.

The trustees said they would consider plans for constructing a conference center close to the hotel, once staff members have established the viability of the conference center project.

Hotel construction could begin as early as fall with a completion date of November 2006. The land will be leased to a local developer, who will build the complex and hire a company to manage the property for the university.

Trustees also heard plans for the possible renovation of Memorial Stadium.

The stadium, which opened in 1924, is showing signs of wear, Herman said.

Athletic Director Ron Guenther said he began considering renovating the stadium after the 2001 season.

Guenther, who cited the renovation of Soldier Field in Chicago as an example of what he does not want to see happen, said: “We wanted to make sure this project protected the architecture of the stadium. In my opinion, Memorial Stadium is not only classic, but one of the few standing memorial stadiums.”

He pointed out that Memorial Stadium is the last of the Big Ten conference venues to undergo major renovations.

“The catalyst for all the things we do is getting people down here,” Guenther said. “This is the opportunity to bring people together in a dynamic setting.”

The plan calls for adding a 19,000-square-foot club space with private restrooms and concession facilities and 49 climate-controlled suites that would be corporate or privately sponsored, giving the stadium a new look without compromising its historic significance. Other renovations would include expanding the concession areas and the bathrooms and adding a mezzanine level in the Great Hall on the stadium’s east side. While seating would be added on the west sideline, the south horseshoe and north end zone, the stadium’s total seating would decrease by 4,056 seats, from the current 69,199 seats to 65,143 seats.

The renovations would be financed through a variety of fundraising vehicles, including a surcharge on tickets (except student tickets), advertising and monies raised from private and club seats.

The university has the potential to raise $127 million for the estimated $145 million project, said Mike Handelman of HNTB, the firm that is completing a feasibility study of the project.

Trustee Robert Sperling said the renovation would attract donors to the university who will want to sponsor club seats.

“This will enable the university to take athletics to the next level with a facility we can be proud of,” Sperling said.

Eppley called the fundraising plans “a very creative way of financing repairs.”

Other business

  • The trustees passed a resolution seeking consensus on the Chief Illiniwek controversy. The resolution states that the university will retain the names “Illini” and “Fighting Illini” but does not address whether the chief symbol will be retained.

    “I’m highly supportive of these guidelines in our work for a consensus resolution,” said President B. Joseph White.
  • The establishment of a program in American Indian Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the Urbana campus also was approved. The program will bring together courses and scholars on campus related to the study of American Indians and indigenous people of the Americas. The campus is hoping eventually to offer a major and a minor in the field. Resources for growth of the program will be funded through internal reallocations.
  • The design and site for the McFarland Memorial Bell Tower on the Urbana campus was approved. The tower will honor the memory of Sarah “Sally” McFarland, the wife of H. Richard McFarland, a 1952 alumnus of the College of Agriculture.

    The 185-foot bell tower will house 49 bells and be located at a future quadrangle envisioned on the campus master plan, on the centerline of Foellinger Auditorium, the Stock Pavilion and the ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center.

    The bells will be cast in Europe, and can be played by a remote touch-sensitive piano-style keyboard or by automated computer chip.

    Fred Guyton of Peckham, Guyton, Albers & Viets Inc. said the design of the tower is unique.

    “There isn’t another one like this,” Guyton said. “It blends nicely with the architecture of the rest of the campus.”

University extends Coach Weber’s contract

By Sabryna Cornish, UIC News Bureau

Men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber is planning on sticking around for a while.

At its July 14 meeting in Chicago, the UI Board of Trustees approved extending Weber’s contract at Urbana by two years and increasing his salary. The extended contract will run through the 2010-2011 season.

Weber, who led the Fighting Illini to two consecutive Big Ten championship titles and took last year’s team to the NCAA championship game, will earn the same base salary ($200,000), but will receive $150,000 more for media appearances and promotional events, bringing his total compensation package to $700,000 annually.

The trustees also approved a one-time signing bonus of $100,000 and a deferred compensation package that will give Weber $1.1 million if he stays with the university as head coach until April 30, 2011.

“It has been a memorable first two years, and our staff will continue working hard to ensure the future success
of the basketball program here at the University of Illinois,” Weber said.

Chancellor Richard Herman said the package illustrates Weber’s wish to stay at the UI. “This represents a long-term commitment by the coach,” Herman said.

Chair Lawrence Eppley said that although the compensation package seems high, it is not in comparison to those of other Big Ten coaches. With the new compensation, Weber is the fourth highest paid coach in the Big Ten.

Eppley also pointed out that the funds used to pay the coach are not state monies, but rather funds generated from athletics.

Athletics director Ron Guenther said Weber’s performance has been “exceptional.”

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