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Prep Notebook: IHSA moves boys basketball tourney to Champaign
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Prep Notebook

Prep Notebook: IHSA moves boys basketball tourney to Champaign

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Work continues Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, on the State Farm Center at the University of Illinois in Champaign.

Quinn Buckner, Jack Sikma, Isiah Thomas and Dick Corn.

Those are just a few of the names who cemented their status as Illinois high school basketball legends during state tournaments held in Champaign.

Starting in March, players and coaches around the state will get the chance to add their names to that illustrious list. The Illinois High School Association on Monday moved its state boys basketball tourney out of Peoria after a 24-year run, giving it to newly-renovated State Farm Center in Champaign on a three-year contract.

The decision, which was seen as the most logical outcome to a bid process that started last year, puts the tournament in a more central location and a more modern building. Once known as Assembly Hall before a corporate name change that netted the University of Illinois a hefty sum of money, State Farm Center still boasts a spaceship exterior to go along with a spiffy interior.

At a price tag of $170 million, the 15,544-seat building offers a fresher look and a bigger venue than the 11,330-seat Peoria Civic Center. Attendance dropped significantly during the last few years in Peoria. The IHSA is hoping the move to Champaign will give crowds a big boost.

“The timing simply felt right to make a change as the tournament format shifts in 2021,” said IHSA executive director Craig Anderson in a news release.

All four classes will gather in Champaign from March 11-13. Some coaches have criticized the new format, which in some cases will call for teams that lose their semifinal games to play third-place games hours later.

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All four classes will crown champions on the same day, March 13.

“We see this as the passing of the torch from Peoria to Champaign-Urbana,” Anderson said.

The University of Illinois, its athletic department, State Farm Center, Visit Champaign County and the Champaign-Urbana communities all pitched in on the successful bid. Part of the bid was a pledge for 13 local hotels locking in prices below rack rate during the tournament.

Peoria’s last year hosting the state tournament was scuttled in mid-March by COVID-19. The tourney was canceled on March 12, less than 24 hours before the Class 1A semifinals that would have included Goreville.

NORMAL RETAINS GIRLS: While the boys tournament is moving southeast, the girls tournament is going to stay at Illinois State University in Normal. The IHSA opted to keep its 29-year partnership with Redbird Arena going for the next three seasons.

“Illinois State University and Illinois State athletics have long valued their great partnership with the IHSA,” said Redbirds athletic director Larry Lyons in a statement. “We take great pride in hosting this championship.”

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Like the boys event, the girls tournament will expand to three days next year. All four classes will gather in Normal from March 4-6, with all four title games set for March 6.

Redbird Arena, which boasts 10,000 seats and excellent sightlines no matter where one sits, has also hosted the IHSA volleyball championships since 1990. The court is named for Benton product and former NBA All-Star Doug Collins, who played at ISU.

CONTACT DAYS REINSTATED: Should the state graduate into Phase 4 of Gov. Pritzker’s re-opening plan in two weeks, the IHSA intends to reinstate 20 contact days for coaches to practice their athletes.

The IHSA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee created guidelines for its second phase of its Return to Play campaign. Those guidelines are now in the hands of the Illinois Department of Public Health, which must sign off on them before contact days can begin.

In an effort to help coaches get extra time with players before fall sports practice officially starts in mid-August, the IHSA eliminated a dead period from Aug. 3-9 during Monday’s board meeting.

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