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AD Mike Thomas: Assembly Hall Renaissance

In a Thursday afternoon press conference, University of Illinois Director of Athletics Mike Thomas spelled out plans for renovating Champaign’s Assembly Hall, which will allow for year-round sports and entertainment programming.

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Thomas said major work will begin one year from now, in March 2014, and conclude in November 2016 — with yearly stoppages to accommodate basketball season.

Athletics Director of Development Rick Darnell said 75% of the $160 million project would come from private and corporate philanthropy. Darnell said the current fundraising strategy will give seating priority to participants in the philanthropy — meaning longtime basketball season-ticket holders may be moved farther away from the playing floor, if they do not donate money to the project.

Assembly Hall Director Kevin Ullestad said expansion of the hall’s floor will accommodate larger conventions and entertainment programs that wouldn’t fit the existing floor.

Initial plans call for private suites, a second circular drive to accommodate patrons arriving from the east side of the building, and air-conditioning. Thomas said new construction would comply with standards of accesibility required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, but did not say whether the University would go above those parameters in accomodating persons with special needs.

Capacity will drop by about 1,500 seats, to roughly 15,200.

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