Bloomington-Normal tries to bring IHSA football title games back to Hancock Stadium
Bloomington-Normal is trying to bring the IHSA football state title games back to Illinois State University’s Hancock Stadium.
Bloomington-Normal and ISU have submitted a bid to the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) to host the state football title games from 2023 to 2027, said Crystal Howard, president and CEO of the Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The state finals have alternated between Champaign’s Memorial Stadium and DeKalb’s Huskie Stadium since 2013 – a practice that the IHSA is reportedly looking to end. ISU’s Hancock Stadium would provide year-to-year consistency.
The IHSA is expected to choose a winning bid in December; Howard said that’s expected to happen next week. The IHSA has already done its site inspection at ISU, she said.
“It’s very competitive,” Howard said. “We think they liked what they saw. We think they liked the package we put together. We actually feel like we might have a good chance at this one, because they want to stay in one place and not have to move back and forth.”
The inaugural IHSA football state title games were played at ISU’s Hancock Stadium in 1974. They were played there every year until 1999, when a conflict with a home ISU football playoff game led the IHSA to move the contests to Champaign. The hosting contract with ISU expired after 1999, and the University of Illinois was awarded the future hosting duties later that school year.
Indeed, the IHSA finals are typically held the weekend after Thanksgiving – which could limit ISU’s ability to host a home game in the first round of the FCS playoffs.
ISU has been supportive anyway. ISU football coach Brock Spack helped with the recent IHSA tour, Howard said.
“Things like that mean a lot to somebody coming in to look at a bid,” she said. She also noted that the IHSA is headquartered in Bloomington and hosts other state championships in the Twin Cities.
In a statement, ISU Director of Athletics Kyle Brennan said “we are excited to be a part of the community’s bid to bring the IHSA Football State Finals back to Bloomington-Normal.”
“Illinois State University and Illinois State Athletics have long valued their great partnership with the IHSA, and take pride in our duties hosting the girls volleyball and basketball tournaments each year at CEFCU Arena,” Brennan said. “We look forward to hearing from the IHSA about the results of the bid process and are confident that our staff and community would welcome all the student-athletes, coaches, families, and spectators warmly and provide them a great experience if the football championships return.”
Hancock Stadium seats around 14,000. (The IHSA requires at least 12,000 for the finals.) That’s smaller than both Memorial Stadium (around 60,000) and DeKalb’s Huskie Stadium (around 24,000).
Howard said there would be room for visitors, which bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in economic impact.
“It’s good for us, because the hotels get a little slower (around the Thanksgiving holiday),” she said. “Although our hotels are doing very well, that’s usually a downtime for them.”
The IHSA said Northern Illinois University and the University of Illinois have submitted bids to keep the state finals, though Memorial Stadium is seeking to continue hosting on alternating years. Southern Illinois University in Carbondale has also submitted a bid.