NORMAL — Addressing what he flatly labeled an “eyesore,” Illinois State University President Al Bowman announced plans for a $20 million renovation of Hancock Stadium during Tuesday’s State of the University address.
The university’s football home since the early 1960s will receive a completely new east-side grandstand in a project expected to be completed by fall 2013.
“It is a quickly noticed landmark that should reflect the top quality and high standards of this institution,” Bowman told the gathering at ISU’s Center for the Performing Arts. “Unfortunately, it does exactly the opposite. It doesn’t welcome guests, it turns them away.”
The new east-side grandstand would feature a two-story enclosed structure, a minimum of eight luxury suites, an outdoor terrace area, a club level with capacity for at least 500 people, a club room and a media and event production facility.
Estimated seating capacity of the revamped east side would be 7,500 — all in chair-back seating — to bring Hancock’s total capacity to approximately 14,000.
While some funds remain from the $1.5 million previously approved for planning Hancock’s upgrade, Bowman called student fees “a prime source of funding.”
“This project will not trigger a hike in student fees, nor will we ask students to pay any new fees,” he said. “The fees students already pay to support athletics and other campus facilities will be directed toward the Hancock Stadium project.”
Bowman acknowledged the retirement of Redbird Arena debt frees up such student fees.
“The fee portion of the project is fixed,” said Bowman. “We know we have $20 million available for the project. Depending on private giving associated with it, then we can go beyond it. I just don’t know how far beyond it we can get.”
If the project is approved by ISU’s board of trustees at its February 2012 meeting, construction would begin in the following spring or early summer.
Dan Layzell, ISU’s vice president for finance and planning, admitted the project would have an impact on seating capacity for the 2012 season.
“We looked at a variety of options. It made the most sense to us from a time and efficiency standpoint to bite the bullet and deal with the temporary inconvenience,” said Layzell. “We have no doubt our fans will be looking forward to the new stadium and will work with us on temporary seating on the south side and whatever adjustments we make on the west side.”
Layzell maintained it is too early in the process to know what Hancock’s capacity will be for 2012. It currently seats 9,500.
Gary Friedman, the Redbird director of athletics, believes the renovated stadium would be a boost for not only football recruiting but in all sports.
“Obviously, this is a big day for Illinois State, its athletics department and a great next step for the football program,” Friedman said. “Fan amenities were at the forefront of the design, and we hope this renovation will be one our campus and community will enjoy for many years to come.”
Redbird football coach Brock Spack said an improved stadium is crucial to his team’s future success.
“It plays a major factor in the recruiting process,” Spack said. “These new renovations will help us significantly in that process and continue to bring in talented and high-achieving student athletes to the program and the university.”
The existing press box area on Hancock’s west side would be transformed into coaching boxes.