Springfield will host Illini hoops 5 times in 2015

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) Illinois will play five men’s basketball games in November 2015 in Springfield while work continues at the State Farm Center on campus, athletic director Mike Thomas said Thursday.

The school has long said the construction schedule would keep the team out of its home arena for part of the early 2015-16 season. The Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield, 85 miles west of Champaign, was chosen from among bidders in other cities.

”We will instead take our show on the road and are thrilled to partner with the Prairie Capital Convention Center,” Thomas said in a news release.

Games in Springfield will include one exhibition and four non-conference contests. The opponents haven’t yet been set, basketball spokesman Derrick Burson said.

The convention center seats about 7,700, less than half of 17,000 that can fit into the State Farm Center.

The Illini plan to move their basketball court and other arena accents with them to give the Prairie Capital Convention Center the look of a home court.

The four regular-season games will be played in pairs with an off day between each allowing the team to stay in Springfield and practice there between games, coach John Groce said.

It isn’t clear how many cities were considered as potential sites, but the Peoria Civic Center also bid to host the games at its Carver Arena, general manager Jim Wetherington said. Carver is the home court for Bradley University.

”I sure hoped it was going to happen. It would have been great to host them, but you don’t win them all,” Wetherington said by email, declining to say what was involved in the bid.

Work on the State Farm Center began this year and will continue into 2016. The schedule allows the Illini to use the facility for games this season, which is scheduled to start next week. New seating, video boards and many other amenities are part of the project.

Arrangements have not yet been made for the Illini women’s team for November 2015.