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Memorial Stadium

Champaign, IL

Home of the Illinois Fighting Illini

3.4

3.2

Memorial Stadium (map it)
1402 S 1st St
Champaign, IL 61820


Illinois Fighting Illini website

Memorial Stadium website

Year Opened: 1923

Capacity: 60,670

There are no tickets available at this time.

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I Cannot Tell Illini

Nestled into the heart of the State of Illinois lies the twin cities of Urbana-Champaign, home to the flagship campus of the University of Illinois. There you will find Memorial Stadium one of the iconic venues of college football and the largest collegiate athletic facility in the state of Illinois.

The Illini have called this stadium home since 1923. It also hosted the 2002 Chicago Bears during the reconstruction of Soldier Field in Chicago. Memorial Stadium received a facelift of its own in 2007 with a reconfiguration of the east grandstand to accommodate a new press box complete with suites and a club level between the main level and the balcony, turning Memorial Stadium into another of the great gridiron venues found in the Big Ten Conference.

3.4

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    4

The Illini have increased their food selection in recent years. The fixed stands offer nothing more than your typical stadium cuisine. I tried the chicken strip basket ($6) and found the French fries to be hard and the chicken strips cold, and it ended up in the trash. I then tried an Italian Beef sandwich ($8) from the Biaggi's tent which turned out to be a far better choice. It included chips and a drink and ranks amongst the best sandwiches I have encountered during my travels.

Other offerings are the BBQ pork sandwich for $4.50. Hot dogs, cheese fries, nachos, and soft pretzels are available for $4 each. Cheeseburgers and brats are available for $5. The $6 hot chocolate in a souvenir thermos was my favorite. Coke products are available in $3 or $5 for a souvenir cup.

Other specialty stands include the BBQ stand, Azteca gourmet nachos, Domino's pizza, and Johnsonville sausages, all of which offer some unique and tasty options.

Atmosphere    3

There really isn't a whole lot that makes Memorial Stadium stand out amongst other BCS venues. The student section isn't as involved as most, and from their perch in the south end zone they have little effect on the game. The marching band does stand out as one of the best I have seen. The field and stadium itself look first rate and it will be an enjoyable experience for any fan of college football.

Neighborhood    5

The campus of the University of Illinois is picturesque during the autumn season. I would recommend taking a stroll before or after the game. The area known as "Campus Town" is the nearest selection of bars and restaurants.

Located about a mile away from the stadium there is also a variety of shops catered to the students that offer some unique souvenirs. My recommendation is the Courier Cafe in Urbana, located about seven minutes from the stadium. The building used to be the home of the Courier newspaper which was published in the area for nearly a hundred years before going out of business in the 1960's. The building was then purchased and turned into a cafe which offers a unique dining experience.

Fans    2

Before I begin to criticize the fans I would like to point out that I most recently attended the last home game of a very long and difficult 2012 season for the Fighting Illini, which saw them go without a Big Ten win for the first time since the 2005 season. It was a chilly and overcast Illinois evening and the stadium was only two-thirds full. Of those fans only the faithful seemed to show a serious interest in the game. The rest of the crowd's involvement was only mild rooting and the occasional heckling of the officials. The Illini battled back from a considerable deficit to make it a one possession game in the fourth quarter but there couldn't have been more than ten thousand fans remaining to hear the final buzzer.

Access    4

The parking directly surrounding the stadium is reserved for season ticket holders with a parking pass. The next lots out are slightly overpriced. There is free parking available but it is a considerable hike from the stadium. If you are unfamiliar with the area I would recommend consulting the online parking map as the area can be difficult to navigate on gameday. Inside the stadium the main concourses are wide and there are plenty of restrooms.

Return on Investment    3

With the Illini struggling to increase their home attendance there has been a price freeze on tickets for the past two seasons. Sideline tickets sell for $50 and horseshoe tickets are sold for $25 for Illini games. The experience from the sideline really is worth the extra money as fans in the end zone lack access to the main scoreboard and the view is less than ideal.

I would recommend avoiding the upper rows of the west grandstand because the overhang from the balcony can block your view and detract from the experience. The cost is typical for a Big Ten football game once you add in food and parking. It is a stadium that is worth visiting for any college football fan but I would be reluctant to pay more than the current pricing.

Extras    3

One unique thing that stands out is the "Block I" done by the student section during the second half in which they all hold up cards and form different images.

No trip to Memorial Stadium is complete without taking the considerable hike up to the colonnade to stand amongst the pillars that each bear the name of a University of Illinois student who perished during the first World War. It is breathtaking and puts the Memorial Stadium name in perspective.

Another interesting occurrence is the fans continuing struggle to cope with the NCAA banning of Chief Illiniwek. Many of the cheers and traditions that were once observed by the chief continue to be carried on by Illini faithful.

As both the afore-mentioned kettle corn eater and UofI alum, I would love to think that my home stad

As both the afore-mentioned kettle corn eater and UofI alum, I would love to think that my home stadium would get a better score, but I mostly agree with this review. Its a nice stadium, but not great and a good, but not fantastic, experience overall. I guess it would help if the Illini were actually, well, good. I would also like to state that I am very glad they ditched the Chief. Seeing some white frat boy do an awkward/not-in-any-way-authentic dance seemed like a very insincere homage to the official symbol of the university.

by jcamp74 | Nov 24, 2010 03:41 AM

The reviewer must have been high or drunk when giving this place a 5/5 on the neighborhood. This pl

The reviewer must have been high or drunk when giving this place a 5/5 on the neighborhood. This place does not deserve a 1/5. I wouldn't be surprised if Champaign was built atop a landfill. Easily the WORST neighborhood of all of the Big 10 conference. Sure, Northwestern is smaller, but at least they pay someone to clean up around there every now and then.

Good student section, but nothing else about this venue makes it worth stopping in for

by DrewCieszynski | Nov 24, 2010 04:06 PM

Once you get out of the immediate couple blocks surrounding the stadium, you\'ll find a beautiful ca

Once you get out of the immediate couple blocks surrounding the stadium, you'll find a beautiful campus, and plenty of interesting bars, restaurants, and live music scenes. The town is easily the best part of this stadium experience...

by paul | Nov 24, 2010 04:39 PM

Well writer, I guess we\'re just going to have to let the stadium travelers settle the debate. I in

Well writer, I guess we're just going to have to let the stadium travelers settle the debate. I invite all who read this review to rate the neighborhood and we'll see what score is truely indicative of the town...

by DrewCieszynski | Nov 25, 2010 05:15 PM

When I visited this stadium I was immediately hit with an atmosphere of pride, strength, enthusiasm,

When I visited this stadium I was immediately hit with an atmosphere of pride, strength, enthusiasm, and unity! I'm not sure if you tried to be overly critical of all your stadiums or if you hold an unprofessional bias for some places, but you sir are wrong on more than one account. Honestly who cares about the food. The atmosphere could not have been more inviting and hospitable not to mention excitable and just an overall great time for students and families. The neighborhood is composed of dorms, student housing, local mom/pop places. Overall very safe and wholesome. The campus town you claimed to have visited is wrong (you described downtown Champaign bars) "Campus Town" is centered on Green St. near campus--so maybe go back and get your facts straight. I covered the Fans. They are so enthusiastic I thought a nearby student was gonna crap himself, and for the 3rd qtr leaving...maybe you misinterpreted ppl having to go pee after tailgating, or leaving to drink more (it happens EVERYWHERE). All in all learn how to have a good time and not to be overly critical. I can only imagine how unhappy your wife and children are every time they disappoint you...

by ohiofan | Nov 26, 2010 02:10 PM

I don\'t think I was confused, and I\'m not sure what you\'re referring to. Overall, the stadium exp

I don't think I was confused, and I'm not sure what you're referring to. Overall, the stadium experience in Champaign isn't bad, just kind of average. I did go to Campus Town over on Green Street- preferred Jupiter's and the Blind Pig to the options there. Thanks for sharing your experience and tips...

by paul | Nov 26, 2010 03:33 PM

Fair weather fans

The experience and atmosphere at any Illinois event regardless of sport all depends on how the last few games have gone. If they happen to be on a winning streak (which is rare as of late) there is not a tougher venue in the country. But if they are on one of their frequent losing streaks half of the season ticket holders don't show up and the rest of the fans pay little attention. Games against Ohio State.and Michigan State are always the exception.

by Daniel Armstrong | Dec 02, 2012 08:18 AM

fact

But games against Ohio State are also split 50/50 between the fan bases.

by rit01818 | Sep 29, 2013 03:45 PM

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Crowd Reviews

Pop the Champaign

Total Score: 3.29

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 2

Memorial Stadium was originally named to honor those University of Illinois students or alumni who gave their lives in World War I. In 2002, the university decided to rededicate the stadium to include the memories of those who served and died in World War II, the Second Nicaraguan Campaign, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Lebanon and Desert Storm.

After several rounds of reconstruction and refurbishment through the years, Memorial Stadium has become a pretty good place to watch some Big Ten college football. Illinois is certainly not a program that comes to mind when you think of the elite programs in the nation, but with names like Grange, Butkus, Halas, and Nitschke there certainly is some history here.

Memorial to bad college towns

Total Score: 2.71

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 1
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 2

The reviewer must have been high or drunk when giving this place a 5/5 on the neighborhood. This place does not deserve a 1/5. I wouldn't be surprised if Champaign was built atop a landfill. Easily the WORST neighborhood of all of the Big 10 conference. Sure, Northwestern is smaller, but at least they pay someone to clean up around there every now and then.

Good student section, but nothing else about this venue makes it worth stopping in for

Love the town/University, Stadium is bland.

Total Score: 2.86

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 1

While I have little point of comparison, Memorial Stadium is precisely how I view Illinois football, a mostly irrelevant, but necessary component of the University.

My experience

Total Score: 2.86

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 2
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 3
  • RoI: 2
  • Extras: 4

My experience at Memorial Stadium was during construction in 2007. I thought the stadium itself was a bit old, but had a nice character to it.

The food on our side of the stadium was in small trailers outside the stadium. The options were limited and lines were extremely long. The other side of the stadium had more options but nothing real exciting.

The atmosphere was ok. Basically just average for a college football game. Surprising because the team was good and finished the regular season 9-3 that year.

The Neighborhood was not to my liking. It had a few places to go, but the only place we could find to eat that wasn't a bar at 9am was a Dennys. There were lots of other local places and chains but they were all closed. I know games start at 11am cst but why wasn't Subway or something open? They would be in most other towns.

The fans that were there seemed to enjoy the game, especially when #14 of the opposing team turned it over 4 times in the fourth quarter but outside of the students there wasn't a real loud portion to the fan base. I expected more from a Big Ten school fan base.

Access was fairly easy for us, and since we got there before 8am, we got to park for free in one of the pay lots just 3 blocks from the stadium. Getting into the stadium was a bit more difficult with small gates for the number of people trying to get in at the same time.

My return on Investment wasn't too good because my seats were in the second row, right behind the Illinois bench. Due to the players standing up the entire game, I couldn't see much of the action in the far endzone. Definately would recommend seats higher up. Would have been happier in the upper deck.

For extras, I did enjoy a peak inside the indoor practice facility next door and the stories from the locals about Red Grange and Statue right outside the stadium

Fighting Illini

Total Score: 3.14

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 4
  • Access: 2
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 3

The stadium has an amazing amount of history, but that history certainly shows the age on the interior. The stadium itself is extremely impressive from the outside and appears to be extremely nice combined with the history. Once inside the old windows were covered by black plywood, bathroom doors were worn out splintered wood. Food here was good though with many choices. Upon arrival at the seats water was dripping down from some pipe above and not in little amounts, but in a steady stream. The fan section was quite amazing for a team that has not had great success lately. Field was in good condition and they let off fireworks after each touchdown. Video board and ribbon boards along with great sound system and band help to get the crowd going which helps make you forget about the defects. All in all it is worth going to just get lower bowl seats and be sure to remember that the stadium is almost 100 years old which makes it interesting.

Memorial Stadium

Total Score: 3.86

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 5
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 4
  • RoI: 4
  • Extras: 3

A sea of orange!

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Local Food & Drink

Jupiter's  (map it!)

39 E Main St

Champaign, IL 61820

(217) 398-5988

http://www.jupiterspizza.com/

Courier Cafe  (map it!)

111 N Race St

Urbana, IL 61801

(217) 328-1811

http://www.couriersilvercreek.com/

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