Office for University Relations

News Release, May 29, 2013

Board approves new name, upgrades for Assembly Hall

Plans also approved for new baseball stadium in Chicago

CHICAGO, Ill. —  A $160 million renovation and name change for the Urbana-Champaign campus’s Assembly Hall and plans for a new multi-million dollar baseball stadium on the Chicago campus were formally approved Wednesday by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

The 50-year-old Assembly Hall has been renamed State Farm Center under a 30-year, $60 million naming-rights agreement with State Farm Insurance Co. announced last month that will provide nearly 40 percent of funding for upgrades at the campus sports and entertainment center.

Chicago’s new stadium will be named in honor of UIC alumnus and New York Yankees centerfielder Curtis Granderson, who announced a funding pledge for the facility earlier this year that is expected to be the largest gift in UIC Athletics history.

“These gifts will add to the world-class facilities on our campuses, and not a dollar of taxpayer money will be spent on them,” President Robert Easter said. “The University is deeply grateful to State Farm and Mr. Granderson for their generosity and for their commitment to our campuses, our students and the citizens of Illinois.”

The board approved increasing its contract with Chicago-based AECOM Services of Illinois to $13.1 million for construction documents for State Farm Center renovation. The board had previously awarded a $2 million contact to AECOM for conceptual and design work. Trustees also approved a $9.4 million contract with Turner Construction Co. of Chicago, which will serve as general contractor.

Upgrades at State Farm Center will include expanding the hall’s floor to accommodate larger conventions and entertainment programs, adding luxury suites, and installing air conditioning, which will allow for year-round sports and entertainment programming.

Major work is expected to begin in March 2014, and renovations are expected to be completed in November 2016 – with yearly stoppages to accommodate basketball season. Along with State Farm’s naming-rights agreement, the project will be funded through private donations and a new $25 per semester fee approved by students in a March referendum.

Construction of the new Curtis Granderson Stadium is scheduled to begin this fall, with completion set for the fall of 2015. The open-air, brick-and-stone clad ballpark will feature 1,200 chair-back seats and two grassy berms for fan seating.

The stadium will be home to UIC Flames baseball, and also will host youth league games through partnerships with Major League Baseball (MLB), Chicago Public Schools and other organizations that serve Chicago-area youth.

Granderson outlined the youth initiative when he announced his gift in February during a ceremony retiring his No. 28 Flames jersey, saying he wanted to pay forward the opportunities that sports gave him. MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) and Urban Youth Academy programs would be key partners in Granderson’s initiative. RBI has established more than 300 youth programs in 200 cities worldwide since it was launched in 1989, funded through more than $30 million in donations from MLB and its 30 teams.   


Trustees also approved the appointments of two new deans on the Springfield campus.

J. Mark Wrighton was appointed dean of the College of Public Affairs and Administration at UIS, which prepares students for careers in government and public policy through undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs and the campus’s lone doctoral program.

Wrighton has served as an associate dean and is currently a tenured political science professor at the University of Southern Mississippi. He also has served on the faculty at the University of New Hampshire, as a lecturer at the University of Texas Pan American and as chair of the Department of Political Science at Millikin University.

Wrighton, who earned his doctorate in political science from the University of Iowa, will assume his new duties July 1. He replaces Pinky Wassenberg, who has returned the faculty.

Hanfu Mi was appointed dean of the College of Education & Human Services at UIS, which offers undergraduate and graduate programs that prepare students for careers as social workers, teachers, counselors, school administrators, gerontologists, public professionals and researchers.

Mi is currently chair of the Department of Elementary Education and Reading at the State University of New York at Oneonta, where he has been a member of the faculty since 1998. He earned his doctoral degree in reading education from the University of South Carolina.

He will assume his new duties July 1, replacing James W. Ermatinger, who has served as interim dean of the college for the past academic year and is also dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UIS.

Executive search policy

The board approved a new policy that limits the use of outside search firms to recruit employees, required under a new state law that takes effect July 1.

Under the policy, search firms will only be allowed in searches for university president; for senior positions such as chancellor that require strict confidentiality in their early stages; for positions in highly competitive markets, such as athletic coaches; and for positions not traditionally found in higher education, such as highly specialized fields of medicine.

Continuing budget resolution

The board also approved a resolution to keep the University operating legally after its current fiscal year ends June 30. The annual resolution is required to pay bills and maintain operations until the state finalizes a new budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The resolution authorizes expenditures based on fiscal 2012 funding levels until the state’s fiscal 2014 budget is in place. The University’s total operating budget for fiscal 2013 was $5.4 billion.

The University’s operating budget for fiscal 2014 will be considered by the board later this year.


The University of Illinois is a world leader in research and discovery, the largest educational institution in the state with more than 77,000 students, 24,000 faculty and staff, and campuses in Urbana-Champaign, Chicago and Springfield. The U of I awards more than 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees annually.