Fans excited to be back at State Farm Center


CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — “This will definitely be the largest crowd we’ve had since pre-Covid,” Brad Swanson, with State Farm Center marketing, said.

People were lined up at the State Farm Center well before the doors opened tonight, all excited to watch the Fighting Illini in their second exhibition game. The State Farm Center looks a bit different than it did last year, partially because fans are allowed back inside, but they also have some new rules to stay safe while enjoying the game.

The second exhibition game of the year was almost sold out. There were a lot of people in masks and some taking them off, even though there are lots of reminders asking people to keep them on unless eating and drinking.

“I’m so excited to be here and support the team,” Vicki Peterson said. “I love Illinois basketball.”

Fans were excited to be back in the state farm center to watch the Fighting Illini Men’s Basketball Team.

“I’m a rabid Illini fan,” Peterson said. “I have been watching them since Nick Anderson sunk the half court shot to beat Indiana, which I think was like 1989.”

This was the team’s second exhibition game. The arena was nearly sold out. Some people were anxious to see a special ceremony before the game started.

“I’m really excited, especially since they’re going to get their rings tonight,” Peterson said. “Its really cool to see them get their rings for winning Big Ten Champs.”

The 2020-2021 Men’s Basketball Team were presented their rings before the game. They also were shown the banner of their accomplishment, but while all that was going on, the State Farm Center looked a bit different compared to the last time people were inside.

“Masks are required inside the building for everybody who’s not actively eating or drinking, so a little bit different from the football stadium where you’re sitting outside,” Swanson said.

Concessions stands are also touchless and cashless. Swanson says most people are complying and they added more signs and were giving masks to people at the door after they noticed some maskless faces at last week’s first exhibition game.

“We’ve increased signage in various parts of the building, where we kind of had troubled spots and made some changes to the concession line to make it a little bit smoother,” Swanson said.

Many fans don’t mind the changes.

“I’m fine wearing a mask to watch them play,” Peterson said.

While others will need to learn to comply if they want to watch basketball.

“In the end it’s what we have to do in order to be here in person and watch our team so if that’s the small price that it takes then most people I think are willing to comply with that,” Swanson said.

While this game was close to selling out, other games this season have already sold out, so far that’s against Arizona and Michigan.

Fans were at the first exhibition game, but besides that, they have not been in the State Farm Center since March 8th, 2020.

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