Assembly Hall renamed State Farm Center

Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas announced Monday that Assembly Hall will be known as the State Farm Center, effective immediately. The University and State Farm agreed to a $60 million, 30-year deal for the naming rights.

The money will go toward the proposed $160 million renovation of the arena, which, if approved, will take place from March 2014 to November 2016.

“It has been the place where students, faculty and staff have gathered for so many different occasions from commencement to convocation, from the circus to Big Bird,” said Chancellor Phyllis Wise. “It has been the place where families have joined together and enjoyed what this community has to offer.”

State Farm — the 43rd largest company in the United States — is headquartered in Bloomington, Ill., just 50 miles northwest of campus on Interstate 74. State Farm has 80,000 employees in the United States and Canada. 

Wise said State Farm’s longstanding relationship with the University, both academically at Research Park and in advertising revenue, makes the partnership even better.

“It is our academic center. It is our athletic center. It’s our cultural center. It’s our community center. And now, it’s the State Farm Center,” she said. “This honored building finally getting a name rather than a description is what this is all about.”

Men’s basketball coach John Groce said the new partnership gives him even more confidence that the renovations will take place.

“The fact that this effort will benefit future generations of students, student-athletes, fans and the general public was the driving force behind our decision to get behind this project,” said Randall Harbert, executive vice president for State Farm.

Harbert said State Farm spends $670 million on an annual basis on media, which would mean the naming rights would account for nine percent of the company’s annual media expenditure this year.

In light of the 50-year anniversary of State Farm Center’s construction, a student referendum for a $25-per-semester fee was passed in March to help fund the renovations to the stadium. The fee will last 30 years and fund roughly 17 percent of the $160 million renovation. Thomas said in March that 75 percent is expected to be funded by donors.

The new design of the State Farm Center includes new premium seating and suite opportunities, in addition to increased student seating. Overall, the building’s capacity is expected to decline from 16,618 to about 15,200, Thomas announced in March.

The addition of air conditioning will also allow the facility to be used year round. Currently, the State Farm Center is often empty between commencement in May and convocation in August.

The Board of Trustees approved the new design of the State Farm Center’s renovations in March. In addition to air conditioning and seating, the facility will have new amenities and state-of-the-art technology.

“State Farm Center will be a point of common pride for all of us, for the Illinois family, for many, many years to come,” Wise said.

The board will make a decision regarding the overall proposal on May 29.

Johnathan can be reached at hetting2@dailyillini.com and @jhett93