- Richard Smith
Illinois Field – Illinois Fighting Illini
Photos by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Illinois Field 1605 S Wright St Champaign, IL 61820
Illinois Fighting Illini website
Year Opened: 1988
Illinois Field, Home of the Fighting Illini
Illinois Field was constructed at its current location in 1988. Prior to this, the home of Illinois baseball was located farther north on campus at the intersection of Wright Street and University Avenue, which is now part of the engineering campus. That site, also known as Illinois Field, had been in use since 1884. This current Illinois Field was originally known as Proano Stadium.
In 1994, Illinois Field also hosted the Champaign-Urbana Bandits, a minor league team in the short-lived Great Central League. There has also been discussions in the past with the Frontier League about hosting a team. The lack of a beer sales stopped that and frankly it is not likely to happen any more, even though beer is now sold.
Illinois Field has served as the location for two Big Ten Baseball Tournaments, in 1998 and 2005.
Food & Beverage 3
Illinois Field has very typical stadium food. Among the stadium's offerings are hot dogs, brats, nachos, popcorn, and pretzels. The stadium now offers beer for sale.
There may be temporary vendors at various games that sell other specialty items.
Illinois Field is in a very good setting, but it suffers from a very poor grandstand that does not seat very many people. The grandstand is pretty much located behind the plate and gets smaller towards the bases.
The other, and in my opinion best option is to sit along the lawn and grass along both sides.
Both day and night games have a certain electricity to them, but the place really shines at night. There is a festival atmosphere to the games and it is also comparable to a great minor league experience. Obviously night and weekend games will be more like this than a later afternoon weekday game.
Illinois Field has a FieldTurf playing surface which covers the entire playing field with the exception of the pitching mound. The field's dimensions are 330 feet down the lines, and 400 feet to center field.
For apparel and other merchandise sales, a trailer is often operated by a local sports apparel store during games.
There is a decent scoreboard at Illinois Field.
The neighborhood closest to Illinois Field is mostly made up of research facilities, dorms, and academic buildings, not to mention high-quality athletic facilities. Culver’s at 2302 S Neil Street and Espresso Royale (1411 S Neil Street) are a couple of close quick service establishments nearby.
A very short walk away is the area along Green and Wright Streets called “Campustown.” There are many bars, shops, and restaurants in this area, and they tend to cater to young college students.
Older fans will want to center their post-game activities around downtown Champaign. Once a pretty boring downtown area, one will now find many bars and restaurants. The Esquire Lounge is a local icon and should be a stop for every one. Try a pork chop sandwich and you will fit in nicely.
Other great downtown spots are Blind Pig Brewery, Jupiter’s, and Farren’s Pub & Eatery. There is a much larger version of Jupiter’s on the outskirts of Champaign (2511 Village Green Place at The Crossing Center) that is also a good choice. If visiting that second Jupiter’s location also try Billy Barooz right next door (2521 Village Green Place at The Crossing Center).
Urbana is a bit slower pace kind of town. But there are three places that jump out as must-visits. 25 O'Clock Brewing Company is a great little brewpub, Crane Alley is a nice bar with some great beers and Masijta Grill is a great Korean barbecue. I would also throw in the eclectic music at the former country nightspot, The Rose Bowl.
Baseball at Illinois is not much different in terms of fan support than a northeast college team. There are more fans, but not that much more. It is not one of the biggest draws in town, but it seems to be getting bigger.
Champaign and Urbana are both easy cities to navigate. Illinois Field is not located close to a major highway but most roads leading to the area will be four-lane ones. There are many parking lots available, but it would be a good idea to look at the official university parking site so that you head the right way.
Champaign-Urbana is at the crossroads of I-57 and I-74, as well as being the eastern terminus for I-72 so getting to the area from Chicago, Indianapolis and points west will be pretty easy.
Return on Investment 4
Admission is currently free. When you combine that with reasonable concessions and free parking it is about perfect for the experience you will find inside. While it's not the best stadium to catch a game, it does have a unique feel which is deserving of a visit for a NCAA baseball fan.
There are free programs as well as links to an online program. There are also usually free posters, schedules and other goodies at a table inside the entrance. The scoreboard and entertainment is good for this level of sports.
Illinois Field is a stadium that is a great spot for a baseball game. If the actual grandstand and seating area could be improved, this would become more of a must watch kind of venue.