One Question Mailbag - State Farm Center


Robert
Jan 15, 2023
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10 Comments

I don't know why I keep calling these "one question mailbag" posts. This one isn't even a question. Someone responded to me on Twitter, the comment put me directly into "well, actually" dad mode, and now I want to explain to the kids in the backseat why washing the car doesn't actually improve gas mileage.

I tweeted something about The Frank Williams Show (against Iowa in 2002) being 21 years ago today. That sparked a discussion about the camera angle in the State Farm Center (during the renovations eight years ago, the cameras were flipped to the other side of the court). And that (I believe) led to this comment:

Well, actually...

First off, I'm not really picking on Jon here. There are a lot of Things People Say regarding the Assembly Hall/State Farm Center renovations, and he's just repeating some of those Things People Say. None of them are true, but they've been spoken for years like they're facts. So your friendly neighborhood 50 year-old dad (er, grandfather) will now WELL ACTUALLY this comment to death.

First off, the home bench is still on the same side of the court as the locker room. In fact, there's a new direct route to the locker room in the corner. When the renovated State Farm Center made its debut in December of 2015 (after those four should-have-been-fun-but-they-were-awful games at the Springfield Convention Center), you were watching the court from the other side because they moved the TV camera bay to the other side. You still saw the teams across the court, but that's because the benches moved as well. You used to be watching from cameras on the east side looking across at the west sideline. Now you're watching from cameras on the west side looking at the east sideline.

But when they moved the team benches to the other side court, they pulled out a mirror, not a turntable. They did not rotate everything 180 degrees. They still wanted the Illini bench to be close to the locker room, so the bench went directly across the court, not to the other corner.

So when you watch The Frank Williams show from 2002...

You're watching from the camera on the east side looking at the Illini bench on the north end.

And when you watch This Won't End Well For Illinois...

You're watching from the camera on the west side looking at the Illini bench also on the north end. It's just that in the first shot, the tunnel is on your right and in the second shot, the tunnel is on your left. Both benches moved directly across the court when they flipped everything.

And right next to the Illini bench there's now a new tunnel directly to the Illini locker room. That's the tunnel media uses to get to the courtside seats from the media room. Right at the end of the bench, in the corner, between the Krush seats and the seats where recruits sit, is a hallway to that tunnel. The visiting team still enters and leaves the court from the main tunnel. Illini leave through their own tunnel and head directly to their locker room.

All of that to say... the home bench is still on the same side as the locker room. It's still by the main tunnel, and with the new tunnel, it's actually closer to the locker room. You've just been looking from the court from the west since 2015.

As for "I just miss seeing the Krush on the floor like they were", well, I'm about to write a book about that. I'm not, like, writing a book about the State Farm Center. I'm going to now write 1,500 words on the renovations in my never-ending effort to fight the misinformation campaign regarding the renovations. And the words "on the floor" are my trigger.

The main reason for the renovations: get the crowd closer to the court. I'm going to repeat that. The main reason for the renovations: get the crowd closer to the court. It is now a louder environment around the court because the fans are closer.

I've argued about this topic for years. I've made visual aides. I've taken photos and drawn on the photos. It's 2023, and people still don't seem to understand, so I'm gonna keep going. For this exercise, to separate pre-renovations from post-renovations, I'm going to call one Assembly Hall and the other State Farm Center. Same building, they just added naming rights at the same time as the renovations were taking place.

The biggest issue with Assembly Hall: the circular event space. The floor was a circle, and basketball is played on a rectangle, so we put a rectangle inside a circle and then placed folding chairs in all the parts that the rectangle did not cover. The effort with the renovations: re-do the seating from the big concourse at the 200-level ("C Section" in the old nomenclature) down to the court by warping the circle into a rectangle.

This was accomplished by changing the angle of the slope to the court. If you read my "well actually..." articles about this in the past, you might remember this drawing I put together. This is A) not an official drawing and B) not to scale. I did not get this from any drawings. I simply sat at my computer after work one night and drew up a section to help people understand the changes for someone sitting a mid-court:

See the word "new" on the section there? And see the old wall (dashed line)? Right behind that wall used to be the front row of A-section. At center court, that's how far the front row seats were from the court. Now? They're all the way at the front of the "NEW" line there. It's the most significant change brought about by this renovation.

I made the line thicker at the bottom where the court would be located. So now look at the "OLD" line between the court and that wall. That's where the rows of folding chairs went. From the court to that wall was just dead space. And so we put folding chairs on one side and media tables (plus more folding chairs) on the other side.

Now I'm talking to Jon. See the section there on the "new" line that says "Krush (standing)"? The "Krush being on the floor" that you say you "miss" used to be in folding chairs along that dashed line underneath. And now they're on those risers, lowered below that new A-Section so that Krush can stand the entire game, right by the court. Having covered games in the old configuration and the new configuration, I can assure you that Krush in this new configuration is much louder (and much more intimidating with the ability to all see the game from risers).

On the ends? Yeah, that's a little different, and it felt like Krush was right on top of the action with the old bleachers. I can't really show that with this section, but just imagine a section long-wise (meaning the rectangular court gets closer to that big circular wall) with bleachers between the wall and the baseline. Krush is still there behind the basket, and they're still overhanging, but because it's part of the main seating and not bleachers on the floor, it does feel a bit removed.

But still, there's so many more students around the court. In the Assembly Hall, there were 700 Krush seats around the court (baseline bleachers and folding chairs along the sideline). In the State Farm Center, there are 1,200 Krush seats (risers on the east sideline and seats behind the basket). I don't understand how this "Krush used to be right there and it was so much louder" campaign has persisted for eight years when there's no factual basis for it. Krush increased from 700 to 1,200. The seats are closer to the court. They're on risers with a soft slope so they can stand the entire game and scream. They hang over the court now and provide so much more noise than before.

Pictures? You want pictures? OK fine but I'm gonna have to dig through an old folder. Give me a second.

OK, I found the photos from the last time I wrote about this. And these two tell the story the best.

Here's Assembly Hall. A rectangle inside a circle and then folding chairs on the floor:

Folding chairs on one side media tables on the other side. Krush bleachers on the end, band bleachers (can't be seen) on the tunnel end.

That white arc I drew on that photo eight years ago? That's where the new seats land. They warped the circle above so that the front row of Blue Hair Alley (as someone who received his AARP application recently, I say that affectionately) lands right there.

I use this photo a lot because it tells the whole story. See the two people standing there by that sideline? Right in front of where the TV announcers sit? Look at how far it is from that spot to the front row seats the begin to slope up from there (not the temporary folding chairs - the permanent seating out of the photo to the left). A person in the front row of A Section (100 level) at center court was what... 60 feet from the court? 70 feet?

Here's where the new "permanent" seats land:

Look at the front row now (not the two rows of courtside seats - the front row of the permanent seats). That row is now... 12 feet from center court? From 60 feet away to maybe 12 feet away. That was the entire point of the renovation.

Go back up and look at the old picture. Eight rows of folding chairs, all on the floor at the same level, filling half a pizza of unused space. Now, looking from the opposite side, the seats warp right down to the court:

The next time someone asks you why we renovated the SFC, tell them "to warp a circle into a rectangle."

On the near side, as you see in the last photo, there are still folding chairs for Krush. But those folding chars are on risers instead of flat on the floor. And the warping of the section above Krush was done so that Krush can stand for the entire game without blocking anyone's view.

Which means that when you put it all together (using this photo my friend Dave sent me from the end of the game on Friday)...

You get this:

  • Krush on risers all the way up to a tall wall (so Krush can stand) with a new A Section (100-level) in front of the suites.
  • Suites (see the section above) where B Section used to be with the concourse for C Section (200 level) maintained above.
  • The Illini bench to the left there (tunnel end) while the visitor's bench is to the right.
  • A second tunnel (look for the block I on the orange wall) where the team can go directly to the locker room.
  • On the near side (look for the TV announcers), the first row of 100-level seating begins five feet behind those announcers, not 60 feet behind them like it used to be.

A circle warped into a rectangle. 500 added to Krush. A more intimidating environment the way the court is wrapped with fans now (with everyone on risers). Club seats and suites to increase revenue.

And, starting again in 2019... a basketball program.

Comments

user665 on January 15, 2023 @ 05:16 PM

Great detailed explanation. One small thing: they advertise current Krush seating to be 1,200, but this count has got to include the seating for recruits. It seems they include all the orange seats in the lower bowl in the 1,200 count. Actual student Krush capacity is about 600 with the current configuration. A sneaky way the ticket office pretends that they give more lower bowl seating to students than they actually do.

phytynlini on January 15, 2023 @ 05:26 PM

I believe it includes the seating behind the south endline.

IllinoisGD02 on January 15, 2023 @ 08:57 PM

As someone who was in the third row at center court… 5 feet from Dickie V and 15 feet from Frankie during the “Frank Williams Show,” this is 100% accurate.

ktcesw on January 16, 2023 @ 04:49 AM

As someone who lives in the deep South and doesn't make too many games, thanks! This is a huge help!! Much better understanding now!

Dan Allen on January 16, 2023 @ 07:51 AM

You know we have arrived as a basketball program under BU when the fan base’s big complaint is about the arena rather than the team playing in it. Thanks, Robert, for the refreshing of our collective memories about the renovations!

illinois81 on January 16, 2023 @ 01:24 PM

Everyone take a deep breath, as I am about to compliment the hated Hoosiers. At least the Hoosiers had the good sense to retain the name Assembly Hall when they renovated. It is now the Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall. Our Assembly Hall was first, we should have kept that as part of the new name. I would have been fine with the State Farm Assembly Hall, Jerry Colangelo Assembly Hall would have been even better.

The Olaf Rules on January 17, 2023 @ 01:12 AM

Another small-ish point: the allocation to the band is a lot smaller now than in Assembly Hall, and moved back away from the court. “Back in the day” the band used to get the entire baseline on the tunnel end (both sides of the tunnel) and the first row of musicians and drums were placed right up against the raised hardwood floor. Now, a lot of that space is given to recruits, VIPs, and others. Not as intimidating, IMHO. Would be a different story if all of the band’s vacated space was given to Krush (should have been).

danielb927 on January 18, 2023 @ 07:28 AM

Great write-up. The only thing that got worse for students after the reno was the view for the ~25 Krush members who got to sit directly in the front row on the West sideline, opposite the bench. Now those same seats (on the East sideline) are high-priced seats instead of students. I would miss that since I sat in those front row seats a lot... but the trade-off to get 500 extra Krush seats around the floor, and to avoid having like 6 rows of folding chairs of Krush who couldn't see squat, seems worth it.

danielb927 on January 18, 2023 @ 07:29 AM

Great write-up. The only thing that got worse for students after the reno was the view for the ~25 Krush members who got to sit directly in the front row on the West sideline, opposite the bench. Now those same seats (on the East sideline) are high-priced seats instead of students. I would miss that since I sat in those front row seats a lot... but the trade-off to get 500 extra Krush seats around the floor, and to avoid having like 6 rows of folding chairs of Krush who couldn't see squat, seems worth it.

danielb927 on January 18, 2023 @ 07:30 AM

Great write-up. The only thing that got worse for students after the reno was the view for the ~25 Krush members who got to sit directly in the front row on the West sideline, opposite the bench. Now those same seats (on the East sideline) are high-priced seats instead of students. I would miss that since I sat in those front row seats a lot... but the trade-off to get 500 extra Krush seats around the floor, and to avoid having like 6 rows of folding chairs of Krush who couldn't see squat, seems worth it.

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