CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — The Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center opened Sunday to the surprise of Illinois’ football players. The 107,650 square foot, $79.2 million facility is the new home for the Fighting Illini football program, including expanded strength and conditioning and sports medicine space, coaches’ offices, position meeting rooms, player development areas, locker rooms, and other areas for recruiting and prospect hosting.
“It’s a little like Christmas Day,” said head coach Lovie Smith. “We got to witness genuine excitement for our players. We’ve been talking a lot about a new day in Illinois football and for me as a football coach, for our current players to have an opportunity to train in a facility as good as anyone’s around and that’s what we’ve given them. We’re so appreciative. So thankful to the Smith family.
“When you see genuine excitement, that’s pretty neat to watch. Every player on our football team, of course, was really excited.”
The student-athletes moved into the locker room permanently on Sunday. The coaches and other staff moved to the Smith Football Center on Aug. 1.
The H.D. Smith Foundation, led by Dale and Chris Smith, donated $20 million to the University of Illinois Foundation, with $15 million dedicated to the performance center. In recognition of the gift, the building will forever be named the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Center.
Driving the project’s need was to update Illinois’ outdated football facilities. Today’s program bears little resemblance to that which existed 30 years ago, when the previous football operations complex was constructed. The new, world-class Smith Football Center demonstrates an institutional commitment to building, supporting, and sustaining a winning football program.
WHAT IS INSIDE?
- State-of-the-art sports medicine suite to rival any in the nation
- Levenick Auditorium with dramatic views of the practice fields, Memorial Stadium, and State Farm Center
- Nutrition center and additional fueling stations throughout the facility
- Grand lobby showcasing Illinois football history
- Strength and conditioning complex
- Majestic head coach’s suite, featuring a two-sided fireplace, sitting area, and private balcony
- Position meeting rooms, staff meeting spaces, and coaches’ offices
- Outdoor sitting area and balcony overlooking practice fields
- Recruiting lounge
- Expansive team locker room
- Players’ lounge, complete with bowling alley, game room, and barber shop
- Rooftop terrace featuring outdoor kitchen and recreational activities, including miniature golf
- NFL alumni locker room
(this article was written by and originally posted on fightingillini.com)