The University of Illinois announced major renovations to Memorial Stadium during a press conference from Monday morning. The renovation, which is expected to be completed in 2019, will bring new training facilities, locker rooms and recruiting spaces to the stadium.
It was also add seating in the south end zone and overhaul the east stands:
Illinois football has long struggled to compete in the Big Ten, but, coupled with the offseason hire of former NFL head coach Lovie Smith, this major renovation is part of the school’s larger efforts to build the Illini program into one that can compete in a major conference.
“To win football games and pursue championships, we need top student-athletes from around the country to choose the University of Illinois to further their educations and their football careers,” the school’s announcement read. “The competition for talent is fierce and pits us against tradition-rich football programs from coast to coast. To win in this race, we must offer exceptional leadership, world-class facilities, and resources that allow our student-athletes to realize every ounce of their potential.”
In their first year under Smith, the Illini are 1-3 and are on pace to post their fifth consecutive losing season. Illinois hasn’t appeared in the top 25 polls since 2011. Having a coach with Smith’s reputation as well as an updated athletics facility will certainly help the school on the recruiting trail to bring their program back to prominence in the Big Ten.
The school plans to acquire $132 million needed for the renovation plans from private donations and Division of Intercollegiate Athletics funds. The Illini do not plan to use Illinois state money or student tuition to finance the project.