BLOOMINGTON — After 25 years of playing in Peoria, the IHSA State Boys Basketball Tournament is coming back to the University of Illinois campus beginning with the 2021 tournament.
America’s Original March Madness, which was previously held in the Champaign-Urbana region from 1919 to 1995, will be at the renovated State Farm Center on March 11-13 in 2021.
The Peoria Civic Center, which has hosted the boys state tournament since 1996, also submitted a bid to continuing hosting the event.
“We see this as the passing of the torch from Peoria to Champaign-Urbana,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “It is bittersweet because there is incredible passion for high school basketball within these two communities, and both have done so much to elevate the state final experience as hosts. The State Farm Center is one of the best arenas in the country, and we are excited to crown state champions there once again. The timing simply felt right to make a change as the tournament format shifts in 2021.”
The hosting bid from Champaign-Urbana was a joint proposal from the University of Illinois, the Fighting Illini Athletics Department, the State Farm Center, Visit Champaign County and the Champaign-Urbana communities. The winning bid represents the state tournaments for 2021, 2022 and 2023.
“We are thrilled with today’s news that the Illinois high school boys basketball state finals will return home to the campus of the University of Illinois,” said Josh Whitman, Director of Athletics at Illinois. “We are grateful to the IHSA and its leadership for choosing State Farm Center and Champaign-Urbana to host the state finals. We are humbled by their confidence in our community, which I know will come together to provide the players, families, and fans of the state’s best teams a once-in-a-lifetime experience. My thanks to the many people and organizations locally who collaborated on a compelling bid and proposal. We look forward to showcasing the state’s flagship university, celebrating the many virtues of Champaign-Urbana, and maximizing the full spectrum of amenities in State Farm Center to visitors from all across Illinois. The relationship between the IHSA and the University of Illinois extends back more than 100 years, and we are excited to continue this longstanding, positive partnership many years into the future.”
Among the many highlights, the bid includes interactive fan elements around the arena, city and campus marketing initiatives, a special in-arena area for parents with children, and 13 local hotels locking in three-year prices for fans below rack rate. The IHSA’s Wheelchair Basketball State Tournament and Special Olympics Illinois Unified Basketball Tournament will continue to be held in conjunction with the state tournament in Champaign-Urbana as well.
“We are ecstatic to welcome the IHSA Boys State Basketball Tournament back to its original home at the University of Illinois,” said Jayne DeLuce, President & CEO of Visit Champaign County. “Our community has evolved into a much broader vision incorporating sports, education, technology, and a place of diverse culture that will provide incredible experiences for all involved. We are ready to embrace a new tradition of welcoming teams, families, fans, officials, and media for the experience of a lifetime.”
The State Farm Center is fresh off a $170 million dollar state-of-the-art renovation that was completed in 2016. The building has also been home to IHSA Individual Wrestling State Finals each winter since 1973.
“The Illinois boys basketball state tournament is back where it belongs, right here at State Farm Center,” said Kevin Ullestad, UI Senior Associate Director of Athletics, State Farm Center Director. “Our building will provide the most memorable experience for all the teams and fans who attend this outstanding event every year. After talking with many of the former high school stars who played in the building during the state finals it was clear that playing in the state’s premier basketball facility left a lifetime memory.”
The State Tournament has recently been held over the course of two weekends, but will begin a new format in 2021 that features all four classes being played over the course of three days, culminating with four state championships games on Saturday.
“It’s difficult to express how grateful we are to the city of Peoria, the Civic Center, the surrounding communities, and the army of volunteers who have so vigorously supported the state tournament for a quarter of a century in Peoria,” Anderson said. “We understand there may be some initial disappointment, but ultimately, we hope they are as proud as we are for overseeing one of the most decorated eras in IHSA basketball with class, grace, and innovation. We love Peoria and look forward to the numerous IHSA events we will continue to conduct there.”
The IHSA also announced on Monday that Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University will continue to host the IHSA Girls State Basketball Tournament for the next three seasons.
“We are excited to continue to serve as the host for the IHSA Girls Basketball State Championships,” said ISU Director of Athletics Larry Lyons said. “Illinois State University and Illinois State Athletics have long valued their great partnership with the IHSA, and we take great pride in hosting this Championship. It’s an honor for us welcome the athletes, their families and spectators to campus and the Bloomington/Normal community each year and provide them with a first-class championship experience at Redbird Arena.”
Redbird Arena has served as the host of the IHSA Girls Basketball State Finals since 1992, and has also hosted the IHSA Girls Volleyball State Finals since 1990.
In addition to the announcements on the state basketball tournaments, the IHSA Board of Directors issued a joint resolution during it video conference call.
“Black Lives Matter. The IHSA Board of Directors wholeheartedly believes in this statement, and vows to work together to better educate ourselves, our students, and the IHSA membership on how we can support those impacted by racism and injustice. We will continue to have dialogue on ways we can elevate this message among IHSA students, coaches and officials, while further incorporating Black Lives Matter and equity for all students into the IHSA’s mission and belief statements.”