- 1605 S. Wright Street
- Champaign, IL 61820
- (217) 333-3630
I freakin love baseball. I played growing up. I played a couple years in college. I can’t get enough of it. I’ve never been much of a football person, but I love when baseball season comes around. I know…that’s weird.
Now that I work in broadcasting, spring is my favorite time. I love it when I get a call to shoot a baseball game. Yes, chances are it’s going to be cold and rainy, but that’s ok with me. I got a last minute call to make the trek to Illinois for three games in three days. The first two days were U of I vs. Michigan State University baseball.
Illinois Field in located on Wright Street right at the boundry for the cities of Champaign and Urbana. It’s just down the street from Assembly Hall and Memorial Stadium. The grassy lot next to the field is actually used for overflow parking during football season.
When you walk into Illinois Field, the first thing you notice is the playing surface. That’s not much of a surprise since it is the focal point on any baseball stadium, but Illinois Field is different. The ENTIRE field is Field Turf. The only dirt anywhere on the diamond is the pitcher’s mound. It’s not like the old Astro-Turf days when there was cutouts of dirt for the bases and home plate. Everything is Field Turf. It’s an interesting look and according to the player’s I’ve talked to, it’s a great surface to play on.
The seating area is pretty small. There are bleachers behind home plate that are built into the hillside. When the field was constructed, they built a hill around the backstop and put in permanent bleachers. When you enter the gate, you come in at the top of the hill and walk down. There are no temporary bleachers. It’s actually a really smart idea except it limits expansion. There are only 1500 seats and there’s really not much room to expand.
Behind the seating area there’s a press box and a concession stand. The stadium food is limited to a couple sandwiches, Coke products and popcorn. Nothing special, but enough to satisfy you during a double header.
I was lucky enough to get to play at Illinois Field when I was in high school. Of course, this was before the Field Turf days, but it was still a really big deal. I hit a triple off the right field wall and at that point in time, it was the biggest field I had ever played on. Had we been playing on a high school field, it easily would have been a home run. I loved playing there when I was in high school and I love going to games there now. It’s not as nice as Oldsmobile Park or even Ray Fisher Stadium, but it’s still a nice little ball park.