Representatives from the U. of I. and State Farm announced April 29 that Assembly Hall would be renamed State Farm Center, in accordance with a 30-year $60 million agreement. The iconic campus building is set to undergo major renovations with completion of the project scheduled for fall 2016.
“We are extremely proud to announce this relationship with State Farm, one of the most respected corporate brands in the world,” said Mike Thomas, the Illinois director of athletics. “State Farm has been an outstanding partner for the University of Illinois for more than two decades, and this agreement will carry that partnership forward for at least three more. The Assembly Hall is one of the most recognizable structures in the nation and, at 50 years of age, has served the U. of I.
campus, community and Central Illinois very well. This agreement will ensure State Farm Center will serve those same constituents, and even more, for many years to come.”
The longtime relationship between State Farm and U. of I. – which includes the State Farm Research and Development Center – along with the fact that the corporate headquarters are just 50 miles from campus, made for a natural partnership on the project.
“We are thrilled with this announcement,” said Urbana Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise. “The University of Illinois is a world-class institution and it deserves world-class facilities. The renovated and renamed State Farm Center will provide a gathering, performance and competition space to serve our students, faculty, staff and neighbors.”
“We are proud to be a part of the renovation of this classic Illinois venue and further expand our longstanding relationship with the University of Illinois and the state where our company has been headquartered for more than 90 years,” said Randall Harbert, the executive vice president and the chief agency, sales and marketing officer for State Farm Insurance Companies.
The name State Farm Center is effective immediately and will be incorporated into the building as soon as possible as the renovation project moves forward. Some utility work on the building and surrounding grounds could begin this summer, with the first major phase of the project expected to begin in March 2014. State Farm Center is scheduled to be completed in time for the 2016-17 basketball season.
“From the very early stages of this project, it was clearly apparent that naming rights for the building would play a major part in the funding model,” Thomas said. “This agreement complements support from campus and our students while supplementing support from the community.”
Campus icon kept working name for 50 years
By Mike Helenthal
The road to stardom is littered with less-than-stellar ideas.
And while Assembly Hall is arguably the most famous architectural icon on campus, naming it before it was constructed in 1963 wasn’t an easy task.A campus committee in 1959 suggested a total of nine names, the final one on the list, “Assembly Hall,” representing the working title on the construction plans.
According to the committee’s report, names were being sought to represent the building’s expected versatility of use and its unique design.
“The project has received nationwide publicity because of its design,” the report says. “The committee believes that there is considerable value in this publicity.”
The committee noted, since the new venue was being built using student fees, that it not be named to memorialize anyone specifically. It also sought to advance an unwritten policy promoting “the desirability of university buildings being assigned functional names instead of naming them after individuals.”
The other eight names: “pavilion; exposition palace (center); coliseum, Illidisc; Ken Baily Arena (bowl); Illiniceum; Illini Colosseum; Zuppke Amphitheater (arena, bowl or center).”
Thankfully, after much debate, city officials recommended, and the U. of I. Board of Trustees concurred, that Assembly Hall was the best fit.
The committee also fully expected the meeting hall’s name to change in subsequent years.
“The committee is … aware of the possibility that as the functional uses of the building may develop in the future, the name selected first may need to be changed at some future date.”