- 1800 S. 1st St.
- Champaign, IL 61820
- (217) 333-5000
Until last year, even though I lived near it all my life, I had never been to Assembly Hall in Champaign for a basketball game. Heck, until earlier this month, I had never even been to a college basketball game tha wasn’t for work. The same is still true in Champaign.
I spent another Saturday night in Illinois working. Assembly Hall isn’t the most modern arena in the Big Ten, but it does have it’s charm. The arena looks like a giant UFO. It must be a thing with Illinois arenas. I used to go to events at Assembly Hall when I was younger. We went to many Ice Capades in Champaign, but like I already mentioned, last year was the first time I had been there when the basketball floor was set up.
When you walk in to Assembly Hall, you come into a concourse level. You have to go up a series of ramps on the outside to get to the main gates. From the concourse level, you can enter the arena and either go up or down. Most of the day of sales tickets are up. Like most college basketball arenas, season ticket holders get the lower bowl while every one gets up in the B and C levels. There are portable bleachers in each end zone. The side near the tunnel and Illinois’ bench is for family and the band. The other end is for the Orange Crush (Illinois’ version of the IzZone.)
There is nothing fancy about Assembly Hall. The concourses are bare and old. They’re scattered with portable souvenier stands and a few permanent concession areas. I didn’t get much chance to walk around to check things out, but I saw a lot of popcorn, pork sandwiches, and pop.
As much as I love Illinois’ student section at football games, I’ve never gotten to witness it at a basketball game. Both times I’ve shot there have been over winter break. While most of the Crush is on break, they allow remaining Crush members to buy extra tickets for family with the stipulation that they have to wear orange. I was the handheld camera underneath the basket right in front of the Orange Crush and it was like pulling teeth to get any good crowd reaction shots. The only interesting thing was legendary Illinois basketball coach Lou Henson was in the house. He was sitting front row with the Crush, signing autographs, and taking pictures. While I was getting shots for a video package of him, the ref came up and had a newspaper guy snap a picture to send to him.
After seeing a game at the Breslin Center, it makes my opinion of Assembly Hall fall a little bit. I haven’t done as much Big Ten basketball as I have Big Ten football, so I haven’t seen nearly as many stadiums. The unfortunate thing is Illinois really needs to tear down and start over. You’d think one of Illinois’ famous alumni could help out…Hugh Hefner maybe? How could would it be to play at Playboy Arena?