now known as State Farm Center
Opened 2 March 1963
As early as 1950 there was discussion on the University campus about the need for both a sports facility that could hold huge basketball crowds and an auditorium type facility that could seat at least a few thousand for concerts and/or large traveling shows.
UI alum Max Abramovitz had been hired to design the multi-purpose building and his design was unveiled at the Board of Trustees meeting on 17 December 1957. Estimated cost was $7,500,000.
The unique design was generally well-liked, but was not without controversary around some of the auditorium aspects. The Daily Illini of 18 December 1957 quoted President David Dodds Henry: there had been “a great deal of misunderstanding. The Assembly Hall is not and never has been intended to be the answer to the auditorium needs. It will take care of one kind of need and enable us now to concentrate on other kinds of auditoria for other purposes.” A small theater for opera workshop and chamber music, and a large music hall for approximately 3,000 were listed by Henry as still needed.
The Assembly Hall opened 2 March 1963. First season’s total attendance was 452,625 and the second season’s was 470,123.