There is a dark, cavernous room somewhere in Champaign-Urbana that is only accessible by a fingerprint and retina scan. To say that it is mysterious and secret is quite the understatement, but that didn't stop 22 brave souls from venturing into this top secret venue. What was their purpose you ask? These 22 people were appointed by the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics to assemble into the group named The Illinois Fan Council.
The concept of this "mythical" fan council idea was borrowed from the University of Wisconsin, and was brought to CU in order to accommodate fan suggestions and to improve the atmosphere of the Illini gameday experience. Fans were given the opportunity to apply for a position on the council based upon multiple demographics. Of the 37 total people chosen, 25 are from the CU area, and the remaining 12 are from the Chicagoland area. 30 of the 37 are season ticket holders, 25 are alumni, 10 are non-alumni, and 2 are current students. In the future, other councils will develop in other areas of the state with the goal of building Illini awareness across the state.
The Champaign Room was able to contact one of the two students about their experience in the first meeting of the newly developed fan council, and asked a few questions about the topics that were covered.
FighitngIllini.com's official report of the fan council's first meeting can be found HERE.
TCR: To open the meeting, DIA asked the council what their favorite Illini moments were. What was/is your favorite Illini moment?
Fan Council Member (FCM): My favorite Illini moment was the rain delayed game earlier this fall (I don't even remember who the opponent was [Texas State]). The Marching Illini is my family and to get to spend that much more time with them was exhausting but very fun. It was something that we had never experienced before. But the best part about that game was when the stadium was empty after the game and we took the field to perform again. Halftime was cut short, so we performed 3-in-1 under the lights, with our victory signaling white capes. It was amazing to hear those notes echo through the stadium after a victory, but even more amazing to be part of a performance that would only ever happen once-literally a "once in a lifetime" moment.
TCR: In relation to game attendance for football, volleyball, and basketball; What were some of the ideas proposed by DIA and the council to help put more butts-in-seats? Any talk of promotional giveaways? (We like rally towels and t-shirts...)
FCM: There was a lot of talk about the tailgating aspect of football games that many schools have done away with. The older members of the fan council are upset that the parking lots closest to the stadium always seem to be empty and that there is no tailgating culture. The members of DIA talked of plans to redo lot 36, the expensive grass lot. They are going to close it in, like the other side with the practice field, and turn it into a mass tailgate area- think The Grove at Ole' Miss. That way fans, students, parents, anyone can come down and get food, set up tents, possibly get some beer and there will be a central tailgating spot. There are talks of a permanent stage where the MI could perform, they could bring in people and even hold outdoor concerts, but I'm not sure on those logistics...
TCR: Moving over to stadium atmosphere, what are your thoughts on the music that has been played over the speakers in Memorial Stadium/Huff Hall/SFC? Also, what is your opinion of the overall tailgate scene during football season?
FCM: Tailgate scene- refer to 2. I wholeheartedly agree on making our own version of the grove
So what do you think? Obviously there are attempts being made by the athletic program to improve the overall fan experience at the University of Illinois. With the renovation of the State Farm Center and the previous addition of new video boards in Memorial Stadium, the program is trying to create a winning atmosphere in the stands. But as we all know, the only thing you need to create a winning atmosphere is a quality product on the field.
What questions do you have? Anything else you want to know about the council? Leave your comments below and tell us what you think should be improved about the gameday atmosphere at the University of Illinois.