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Champaign-Urbana welcomes back March Madness

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Brad Underwood
State Farm Center

CHAMPAIGN (HOI) -- Just two days ago Peoria had their hearts ripped out when the IHSA announced they were packing up their bags and moving to the newly renovated State Farm Center. Wednesday University of Illinois and IHSA officials welcomed March Madness back to the U of I campus."

"Welcome home," was the opening message from Illinois Men's Head Basketball Coach, Brad Underwood.

Simple words with a big meaning. From 1919 to 1995 Champaign-Urbana was the pinnacle of boys high school basketball glory.

"The top six members of the 'Flying Illini' team in 1989 played in this tournament in this building. The top two scorers in the Univeristy of Illinois history, the top assist leader, the top steals leader all played in the high school ranks and got the opportunity to play in this building. That's powerful," explained Underwood.

Now it's back to the place it called home for 76 years.

"We're ecstatic of course. This facility is tremendous," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson.

The University of Illinois provided IHSA 170 million reasons to come back to the State Farm Center, following its $170 million renovations in 2016.

"This was one of the reasons behind that project, one of the things we imagined having the opportunity to do was to bring this tournament back here to Champaign-Urbana where it started," said Josh Whitman, Athletic Director at the University of Illinois.

The mission is simple, to continue the legacy of "America's Original March Madness."

"To make this a life-long memory for our students, our fans, the parents, and all those community members that will come be apart of it," continued Anderson.

While this is a three year contract with Champaign-Urbana, Anderson reiterated that they see this as a long term commitment and expect to play here at the State Farm Center for years to come.

Champaign County officials say they believe having the tournament back in the area will provide a more than $4 million boost to their economy.

Underwood and Whitman both stated having the best players in the state of Illinois playing on their court will provide a nice boost to their recruiting efforts.

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Holden Krusemark

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