New Hancock Stadium pleases visitors at dedication

2013-09-19T06:00:00Z 2013-09-20T15:35:15Z New Hancock Stadium pleases visitors at dedicationBy Randy Reinhardt | rreinhardt@pantagraph.com pantagraph.com

NORMAL —Illinois State University President Timothy Flanagan is thrilled with his timing in switching jobs.

“It’s a wonderful experience being a month into the job and dedicating a $26 million athletic facility,” Flanagan said. “I could get used to this.”

ISU had become used to an aging football stadium. But that changed Wednesday as newly renovated Hancock Stadium was officially dedicated and its new east-side structure celebrated before several hundred people.

“I think it looks very, very nice,” said Redbird football coach Brock Spack, whose team will play its first game in the new facility at 6 p.m. Saturday against Abilene Christian. “It’s a commitment obviously to football, but a commitment by the university to all the students, alums and supporters.”

Those attending the dedication were given a tour of the lower concourse, club area, suites and press level.

According to Larry Lyons, director of athletics, the new Hancock capacity is 13,391 people, including seating available on grass berms. That total includes approximately 5,500 on the east side and 5,800 on the untouched west side.

Lyons remembers talk of renovating Hancock, which was originally dedicated in 1963, going back more than a decade.

“When we first started having drawings about what it should be like, there were drawings from the late ’90s,” Lyons said. “There were discussions back then what we could do. Then we get to the point where it’s this.”

Lyons called the evening “almost a little overwhelming. All the planning that took place … It’s turned out to be such a great building.”

Flanagan was not yet on campus when the former east side featured unsightly metal bleachers.

“The entire university should be proud of it,” said Flanagan. “I’m told we’re replacing what was an eyesore with this great new facility that really represents a welcoming front porch to the campus.

“As you come down Main Street and see this beautiful, iconic building I hope people will say ‘Wow, this is a first-rate university.’ And it is a first-rate university.”

Spack has closely watched construction from the field below and his office in the adjacent Kaufman Football Building.

“I know our players really appreciate it, and our former players are jealous they didn’t get a chance to play in this facility,” Spack said. “I tell them they helped build it. Every man who played college football here can say they had a hand in building it.”

“I’m very excited about the building and what it does for Brock and that football program,” said Lyons. “It’s a statement long overdue for them.”

Flanagan thanked his predecessor, former ISU President Al Bowman, “for his vision.”

Lyons said he received one major directive from Bowman.

“He said, ‘Larry, it better look good,’ ” recalled Lyons. “I think we covered that base.”

Bowman launched the Hancock project in his State of the University Address on Sept. 27, 2011.

It was funded by bond revenue, private gifts and $2.75 million raised by the athletic department.

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(9) Comments

  1. clg4899
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    clg4899 - September 20, 2013 10:55 am
    A real commitment would throw the school into even greater financial distress. According to "The System," a freshly published view on college sports, major college programs spend on average $91,000 per athlete and $13,000 per student per year. Coaches are no different. Brock Sprack is being groomed for Division I coach. His base salary is $243,072 which does not include income from endorsements, media shows, appearances, and money under the table, like annuities. If a Full Professor receives $100,000, it makes the news.

    While tuition and fees (fees are used in many schools to fund athletics) continue to rise, and athletic programs engage in "arms races" to get bigger and better and more "impressive" stadia, weight rooms, and locker rooms, the majority of programs are financial losers. As of July 2013, of 120 top-tier football programs, only 22 made a profit or broke even. The other 100 or so lost money at the expense of the students and faculty who help fund the programs.

    Students leave school after graduation owing an average of $40,000 in student loans while most top athletes owe nothing and don't graduate. But what a run, a return, a block....

    Student athletes and their ADs, supporters, and handlers are quick to say that these kids are "student-athletes" with the word, "student" being first for a reason. In fact, major college football programs report that the athlete part of equation requires an average of 41.6 hours a week of recognized and organized work, while the student part takes 38.2 hours. That 41.6 does not include voluntary workouts, pickups, or training.

    But they still graduate, right? Only if they are white athletes. Less than half of the non-white athletes ever receive a degree as evidenced by Auburn's numbers which are typical. One can't argue that the extra expense produces graduates or even professional players.

    In the end, college football players including those who don't make the NFL, which is most of them, suffer significant and long term brain trauma and degenerative brain diseases even if they don't have concussions. Read that again. That's according to a March 2013 Cleveland Clinic study.

    It isn't fair to lump all athletic programs into the same mold. Many of the equestrian and
    Lacrosse teams may break even since they are clubs which are funded by fees paid by the athletes and require little funding from the mother ship.

    So, Hancock looks impressive, seats fewer, losses money, and endangers its players. Congratulations ISU, once again a follower and not a leader. "And gladly would he learn and gladly coach someplace else."
  2. Allstate
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    Allstate - September 20, 2013 10:25 am
    0 - 2 with a combined score of 108 - 52 Normal West could be the next opponent.
  3. Isalum
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    Isalum - September 19, 2013 8:36 pm
    The irritating thing that continues to be emphasized is that it looks great as a "gate" to the University. It does look good but is NOT a step up for the Football program when seating capacity is actually smaller than it was with the South Bleachers still there. The lack of maintenance caused those to be removed, of course. We have a new look "gate' to the University but a real commitment to Football is lacking as always. How many more seats could have been constructed without the suites and club. Discussions, in the past, called for at least ten thousand seats in the new construction. Talk is cheap. It seems that providing the "deep-pocket" group a place to slug down cocktails, has more importance than providing adequate seating to grow the fan base, or to remember those who have loyally bought tickets year after year. Of course, unless the product on the field doesn't improve, then its "never mind".

  4. Drewski1974
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    Drewski1974 - September 19, 2013 3:07 pm
    For your reference:
  5. GoodSource
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    GoodSource - September 19, 2013 1:17 pm
    Congratulations to Illinois State on a nice step forward. This one is long overdue, but that's all water under the bridge now. This greatly improves what had been an eyesore in those east-side bleachers and provides a much nicer entry to Normal and the campus. It will also be a boost in recruiting. Haters are always gonna hate, but this is a job well-done, ISU, and may it bring the success and financial support for more improvements in the future.
  6. coldfiltered
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    coldfiltered - September 19, 2013 1:05 pm
    Dream on. There is not a BCS school with a small time stadium like this. ISU is not even in the same league as BCS programs. And I agree w/ middlefinger the ISU stadium looks small time. And the electronic scoreboard will be ready when ?
  7. ISUFAN88
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    ISUFAN88 - September 19, 2013 12:02 pm
    The new stadium looks great! Can't wait to see it on Saturday. I am hoping that ISU gets enough support that we expand into BCS. But, in order for that to happen, Illinois State will have to continue to have winning seasons in FBS.

    @middlefinger - I am not sure what High School football field you have been to that holds over 13,000 people/fans, but there aren't any in Illinois....maybe Texas.
  8. Usaf1
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    Usaf1 - September 19, 2013 9:26 am
    Don't see many ISU athletic supporters.
  9. middlefinger
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    middlefinger - September 19, 2013 9:16 am
    It looks like a nice High School football facility.
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