“Having scalped a single ticket for the IHSA semifinals when Marcus Liberty was a senior and Sonny Cox and Chicago King were in thesir glory days. My seat was square in the middle of the Chicago King cheering section in Section A and I spent an entire glorious afternoon as the only white man in a sea of black Chicago King fans, listening to story after story of Marcus’ exploits on the court over the course of his entire high school career.

“They were so proud of Marcus and his accomplishments. They treated me just as if I had been attending every game all season long with them. I learned a lot that day sitting in Assembly Hall and very little of it had to do with basketball.” – Dan Flannell, Sullivan

“I attended a tennis exhibition inside the Assembly Hall in the early 1970s when a participant, I believe Arthur Ashe, halted play to direct medical attention to a fan who was suffering a seizure. They waited until the fan was assisted and evacuated, then they resumed play.” – Gary G. Gray, Jr., Decatur

“I first set foot in the Assembly Hall in March of 1964. Stephen Decatur had won the state basketball championship in 1962 in Huff Gym. They played in the Assembly Hall in 1963. The next year – 1964, which was my junior year of high school – was our year.

“The starting lineup of Jack Sunderlick, Dave Scholz, Charlie Currie, Butch Smith and Bobby Warnsley, was an incredible collection of athletes. I truly believe (perhaps foolishly) that they could be competitive todaya.

“I walked into the Assembly Hall for the first time for Friday afternoon’s quarterfinal game and it was, and still is, an unbelievable venue for a high school game. Decatur beat Evanston and after the game we got back on the school buses and rode back to Decatur. By 10 a.m. the next morning we were back on the buses headed to Champaign. The opponent in the semifinals was Cobden, a school of 147 located somewhere in southern Illinois. They were the Appleknockers and like all high school kids, we had no trouble making up the jokes.

“Well, the joke was on us. We played a terrible game, shooting less than 30 percent, and lost 44-38. The third place game that evening was anticlimactic, to say the least. And, of course, Cobden lost to Pekin.

“That memory of the Assembly Hall is certain the most indelible and will be with me forever. I still get goosebumps thinking about it.” – Dennis Adkesson

“It was our good pleasure to attend the first game ever played at the Assembly Hall (March 2, 1963). Our student ticket package in those days was for only four games because of the small seating capacity at Huff Gym. We attended two non-conference games before Christmas and luckily were allotted tickets for the last two games of the season that were played at the Assembly Hall.

“Since Huff only seated around 6,500, we felt sure our seats would be in a prime location. We were stunned to ofind that our tickets were in the second row from the top in Section C. All the high rollers, politicians and faculty members must have been sitting in front of us.

“Nonetheless, it was a thrill to be a part of the crowd to witness that first game. It was truly a magnificent building and everyone in Central Illinois was buzzing about the flying saucer that had landed on the Champaign-Urbana campus. The only surprising thing that day was that the Illini players were probably a little awestruck by the grandeur of the Assembly Hall and seemed to lose some of the home court advantage that they enjoyed at Huff. But they prevailed over a pesky Northwestern team (79-73) and went on to win the 1963 Big Ten title.” – Jim and Shirley Beckhart

“At the beginning of my freshman year at the University of Illinois, my dorm hall went en masse to see one of the last Elvis Presley concerns. Yes, he was heavy. Yes, he was old. But, yes, he was fabulous! He sang, strutted and tossed sweat-stained scarves to every girl within tossing distance. It may have been the beginning of the end, but he gave a performance that showed what a consummate entertain can do.” – Mary Kay Thompson, Decatur

“Who scored the first basket at the Assembly Hall? It was Rich Falk of Northwestern (who would become the Big Ten’s coordinator of officiating for basketball). During my nearly 25-year association with Rich and as a member of his officiating staff, and as an observer of officials for the Big Ten, I heard that story many times. Rich was very proud of it, as he should be. I can walk you out to the spot where he hit the jump shot.

“My favorite memory was during the first year I officiated games in the Big Ten. I was working the Illini Classic and I had a game between two good teams. I recall a coach complain about a call and he said, ‘Ref, let them play. This is the Big Ten.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Yes, it is, and I am more excited than you are to be here.’” – Ed Flynn, Decatur

“As I approach my 60th birthday, one of my most vivid childhood memories was a trip to the Assembly Hall with my father. It was the spring of 1963 and we left Assumption early to make it to the Saturday sessions at the first state tournament held at the Hall. The games were completely sold out. My father and the scalpers could not come to an agreement for the afternoon session, so we watched them on televisions set up under the stands at Memorial Stadium. However, he did buy tickets from a Chicago Carver fan for the evening games.

“We arrived early, sitting in the middle of the Carver section, to watch Springfield Lanphier play Peoria Central. Much more interesting than the game to this wide-eyed 9-year-old boy was being two guys from a very small town in Central Illinois sitting in this group of Chicago fans. Just before tipoff, Cazzie Russell, wearing his Michigan blue blazer, took his seat in front of us. Cazzie had, of course, starred at Carver and lost to Stephen Decatur in the state championship game at Huff Gym the year before.

“I must admit I entered the Assembly Hall that evening hoping Centralia would win. But I was soon caught up in the enthusiasm of the Carver crowd. I’ll never forget my favorite Carver cheer: ‘Two black hands, two black feet, Carver, Carver, can’t be beat!’ I think the folks nearby chuckled seeing a little white kid doing that chant! Of course, Carver won the game when reserve Anthony Smedley hit a shot with a few minutes to go. The day is a great memory for so many reasons. Thanks for letting me share it.” – Rich Isome, Baldwinsville, N.Y.

“I’m originally from Decatur but now live in San Diego. I was in the second row above the tunnel looking dead on to Marcus Griffin’s short to beat Wisconsin in the 2000-01 season. This was before the giant shot clocks on top of the basket, so the view was impeccable. Great vibes all the way back to Decatur after that one. Also, the Chief’s last dance was so emotional. I get goose bumps just remembering it. Go Illini!” – Ben Black, San Diego

“I saw some great teams and individuals but my favorite was Quinn Buckner from the team from Thornridge. They looked like men among boys during that state tournament.” – Ed Williams

“My best memory of the Assembly Hall is a tie – my college graduation and Frankie Williams hitting a crazy shot to beat Ohio State.” – Dary Burnett

“I grew up in Danville and my first remembrances were of Danville playing in the state tournament. The first time I walked in, ‘awestruck’ would be the best description. I also worked at the Assembly Hall. First concert: Bad Company. In 1989 there were so many great games. Illinois led Florida 6-0 before Florida ever got the ball over mid-court. And of course, Georgia Tech (when Illinois won on Super Bowl Sunday to become No. 1 in the nation). I thought the noise would blow the roof off that day. And finally, Kendall Gill’s first game back from injury (he broke his foot in the Georgia Tech game). Everyone in the arena was just waiting for Gill to get up off the bench and check into the game. How sweet to rack up over 100 points on Iowa that day (Illinois won, 118-94). I moved to California in May of 1989 and haven’t been to an event in the old building since.” – Tom Hendrickson, Danville (class of 1979), University of Illinois (class of 1984)

“At freshman orientation in September of 1967, they brought all of us to the Hall and had the One-Eyed Jacks perform. Great show. I remember rotating in line with fraternity brothers overnight outside the Hall waiting to buy tickets during the Harv Schmidt years.

“I also remember seeing it built during 1961 or 1962. Before I-57 was built, we used to take Route 45 from Chicago through Champaign on the way to Windsor, where my grandparents lived. I saw them winding the steel cables up before they were covered in concrete. Biggest thing I’d ever seen.” – Jim Pacek

“I still vividly recall my first time inside the Assembly Hall. Growing up in Sullivan, I was a big Illini fan and I remember watching the games on TV broadcast by Tom Schoendienst at WCIA. But I didn’t actually get to go to a game until my senior year in high school, back in 1971. I went with a buddy and his dad. Walking in I was astounded by how big it was, particularly by how much ‘air’ was inside. You really did feel like you were inside a giant flying saucer.

“But the game itself was most memorable. Illinois was playing Indiana, and that was enough right there to psych up a kid. But Indiana had a player who arrived with great hype – George McGinnis. This guy was tearing up the league and he was literally a man among boys on the court. He dominated the game from start to finish. Players just bounced off of him and he was smooth as silk. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player do whatever he wanted at that level of play. It was impressive. The crowd was on him the whole game and that just made him better. I believe his stats that season were off the charts (McGinnis averaged 29.9 points a game in his only season for the Hoosiers). It made for a very memorable first-time visit to the Assembly Hall.” – Mike Foley, Decatur

“I saw the Ice Capades there, which ranks right up there with Illinois scoring 30-some points against our arch-nemesis Penn State. That was the only home game I attended that year. If I had to pick between the two, I’d take the Ice Capades.” – Red in a Blue State

“I have a ‘Paint the Hall Orange’ picture from the Dec. 1, 2004 victory over Wake Forest that hangs in my office at home. It’s a gift from my younger daughter who attended the game with me. On a good day, I can find us in the crowd.

“Another fond memory is of a Huey Lewis concert. I won tickets from WJBC radio in Bloomington. That time it was my older daughter who went with me. Her first concert. My last. And another special memory for me.” – Joanne Wilson, St. Norbert College

“I remember my dad taking me to see Tal Brody play. Long time ago. What a magnificent ball-handler he was. My alma mater needs a new gym. Assembly Hall is one of the most impressive, beautiful structures on earth, particularly at night. Unfortunately, it’s a circular building, which is just wrong for basketball. A basketball guy has to be rectangular for the seating patterns to work and to get that maximum crowding along the baslines. Build a new gym. Make it rectangular. I’m exiled out here in Woodstock, N.Y., so I depend on you for coverage. I hope to make trips home for a football and basketball game next year.” – Stephen Thomas, Woodstock, N.Y.

“Even more than the knockout punch delivered by the Dee and Deron show against Wake Forest (December of 2004), I enjoyed two years before that when Illinois annihilated North Carolina (winning 92-65). Bill Self was our coach and I knew right then how special this team would be.” – Lyn Bennett

“My husband and I met when we were working the IHSA Class AA state tournament on March 22, 1974. I was a volunteer usher in the student cheering section and he was a security red coat at the floor gates. We were married seven months after that on Nov. 2, making this year the 39th anniversary for both. We both also worked as team hosts for the boys and girls tournaments until they were moved to Bloomington and Peoria.” – Donna (Hawkins) Shepherd and Charley Shepherd (Tuscola and Tolono natives, now in Cerro Gordo)

“How about the only men’s Big Ten basketball game ever played at the Assembly Hall that did not include the Illini as a participant. It happened when Indiana played Michigan in March of 1974, a tie-breaker to decide both the Big Ten championship and the league’s one and only NCAA Tournament berth. (The league wanted the game played at a neutral site). I ducked out of a night class at the UI to sit in the top row of Section C to watch a game between two schools I despised then and continue to despise to this day. Michigan prevailed and I don’t remember cheering once. Having just returned from Ann Arbor (last Sunday) I can once again confirm that almost 40 years later Michigan fans are still jerks.” – Dan F.

“My first time to Assembly Hall was as a West Aurora High School freshman for the 1976 Class AA state basketball finals. The Friday and Saturday games were fantastic as was the championship game for the first 31 minutes or so until Laird Smith of Morgan Park (Levi Cobb was on that team, too) drained a long buzzer-beater to defeat my team.

“I ended up graduating from Illinois (Orange Krush was high in Section C in those days), as did my wife and as did our son in 2010. Been back many, many times since that first visit in 1976.” – Erik Egeland, Aurora

“Best moment ever was the 1974 IHSA Class A states final. My dad (Frank Supinie, RIP), my brother (John Supinie) and I were there. We are from Lawrenceville. Under legendary coach Ron Felling the Lawrenceville Indians defeated Ottawa Marquette in a wild game to win the state title. We were in one of the top two rows (of Section C). Lawrenceville had a one-point lead and Ottawa Marquette had an in-bounds play with just a few seconds to go. Their shot from just inside half court went off the back of the rim and was no good. The horn sounded. Lawrenceville had won its second state title in three years. I remember jumping up and thrusting both my fists into the air and screaming my head off. It was an unbelievable moment.

“After we left the Assembly Hall we got a bag of Arby’s sandwiches, went to my sister’s (Judy Supinie) apartment and slept on the floor.” – Andy Supinie, Wichita, Ks.

“The first time I went to the Assembly Hall was in 1968. I was a little kid and saw (Decatur’s) Dave Scholz score 42 points against Northwestern. Funny side note: After the game, my dad didn’t remember where we parked the car and we walked clear around the place until we finally found it.” – Mikeydamouth

“Two early 70s concerns come to mind. Chicago, with the stage rotating and Danny Seraphin (the drummer) wearing a huge bobblehead Nixon mask throughout, and Jethro Tull, with Ian Anderson doing unspeakable things with the flute.” – Tendonitis Tom

“I went to the Elvis concert and never saw anything like it. It was an event more than a concert. People everywhere. It took us over an hour to get to the Hall after we hit the edge of Champaign. Women simply could not get enough of him during the concert. I have to admit it was great fun they said, ‘Elvis has left the concert hall.’” – Ronh

“The BB King-Rolling Stones concert in 1969. I can still remember the cigarette and marijuana smoke rolling up into Section C. Also, Shaun Pruitt clunking two free throws with seconds to play to lock up a loss to Indiana. Also, Chester Frazier giving Eric Gordon a good chest bump during player introductions. And, of course, the Chief’s last dance.” – crkcrk2

“My best recollection was a trip from Decatur to the Hall on Christmas Eve, 1983. It had snowed 8-10 inches and the temperature dropped to about minus-20 degrees. In the station wagon on the way over, we drove about 30 mph as the visibility with the blowing snow was very limited.

“We pulled right up to the ramps as the parking lot was practically empty. The official attendance was said to be 7,000-plus but there weren’t 700 people in there. They pulled some high school refs from the stands and they wore jeans and ill-fitting striped shirts but to their credit, they weren’t a factor in the game.

“You could distinctly hear every squeak of the sneakers on the court. The unranked Illini took No. 2 Kentucky to the buzzer with their All-American Kenny Walker hitting a jumper as time ran out to beat us by two. Driving back through the same harrowing conditions, our car broke down a block from home.” – Gary G. Gray, Jr., Decatur

“We drove through drifts to get to that game. We had seats in Section C but were able to move down to Section A because so few people showed up.” – Ann Jones, Decatur

“The Kentucky game in 1984. Drove through a snowstorm but what a game. Thanks dad!” – John Wagner

“I was first in the Assembly Hall in 1963 to watch the Decatur High School Runnin’ Reds play in the quarterfinals of the state championship. I walked in and just could not believe what I was seeing. It was so huge. I had just witnessed Decatur winning the state title the year before in Huff Gym and the difference between the two gyms was unbelievable. I’m glad they are keeping the Assembly Hall.” – Joe Gant

“My first big concert was at the Assembly Hall to see Three Dog Night. I went with Betsy Schuerman and we drove over in the Fiat her parents got her. We were sophomores at St. Teresa but we thought we were so cool. We didn’t realize we needed to pay attention to parking. Three Dog Night was great, but when the concert was over we couldn’t find our car and we were too embarrassed to ask for help. We literally waited until the place was completely empty and still had to flag down security to help us find the car. I turned down a chance to see Elvis. I think I was going to be too busy at The Winery or Lock, Stock & Barrel.” – Janet Ernst, Decatur

“I was a student at the University of Illinois when the Assembly Hall was built. I attended sporting events and I saw the Allan Sherman concert with a date, who later became my husband. I most remember the memorial service for President Kennedy. The Assembly Hall was full and the silence was unbelievable. It was a fitting service for a fallen president.” – Sandra Schairer, El Paso

“You mentioned some great Illini basketball games that I was not fortunate enough to be at. I was, however, able to witness two buzzer-beters. The first was Frankie Williams hitting the 3-pointer from the top of the key to beat Ohio State. The second was a Marcus Griffin tip-in off a lob to beat Wisconsin.” – Bill Roth

“The Assembly Hall brings to mind attending many performances of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus. My father, Jim Moran, was a lifelong circus fan who even rode the Ringling train to the Hall. He counted among his best friends many of the circus performers, workers and their families and was privileged to enjoy watch the shows along side circus greats like bandleader Merle Evans, animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams, legendary clowns Otto Griebling and Lou Jacobs. Seeing the thrilling acts in the vastness of the Assembly Hall made for many memorable experiences in ‘The Greatest Show on Earth.’” – Anonymous

“It was 1966, March Madness. I was on the Stephen Decatur High School basketball team and we were in the IHSA state tournament again. Back then, Stephen Decatur was usually in the hunt for the tourney.

“As a junior, it was my first trip to the Assembly Hall to play. As we walked from the locker room in the lower honeycomb area of the Hall, we walked through a maze of hallways. Walking onto the court, I looked up in awe. I had been in the Hall but never on the floor.

“Coach Kenney came over to me and said, ‘What do you think, Moffett?’ Being the only farm boy on an inner city team, I replied, ‘Coach, how many bales of hay do you think this place would hold?” He laughed, and then we laughed together, loudly.

“That first impression from the court floor was awesome and it continues to be awesome. We finished fourth in the state tournament.” – Larry Moffett

“My grandpa, Mack Jackman, was from Lawrenceville and every year that Lawrenceville reached the Elite Eight he would take me out of school at Warrensburg and we’d head to the Assembly Hall. The time I spent with him watching those games are cherished memories for me. Jay Shidler, the Leighty brothers, Mike Lockhart, the championship game win against Ottawa Marquette…great basketball!

“That place was a destination for every high school player at the beginning of every season. Those times with my grandpa exposed me to the magic of Illinois March Madness. I will never forget it.” – Mike Delaney

“I first visited the Assembly Hall as a high school freshman when my high school (Glenbard East) made the Elite Eight and played against the eventual champions, Pekin. I went on to get my degree in architecture at the University of Illinois and learned all about how this amazing structure was designed and built (architect: Max Abramowitz; contractor: Felmley-Dickerson).

“My graduation ceremony was held in the Assembly Hall…certainly one of the most important days of my life. During my 40-plus years of architectural practice, my love affair with this building has grown stronger and stronger. While many exciting events which have occurred within the building have become a part of its history, the real history is in he structure itself, which is still a remarkable and enduring building. It’s hard to believe it has been 50 years!” – Chuck Kress

“More memorable than favorite – when the pre-National Anthem silence before the Iowa game was broken when a fan yelled, “Shoot Tom Davis!” back in the days of the Illinois-Iowa, Deon Thomas-Bruce Pearl feud. Will never forget it! – Jeff Karzen

“The comeback against Seton Hall (Dec. 9, 2000; Illinois trailed No. 7 Seton Hall by 21 and rallied to win 87-79 in overtime).” – Chris Nichols

“My student season tickets were in the first row behind the visiting bench. I think they changed that setup after that year because of my buddies.” – Reid Spaulding

“Illinois-Wake Forest (a 91-73 victory over No. 1 Wake Forest on Dec. 1, 2004). First time my friends and I camped out to get front-row seats in Orange Krush.” – Brian Glickman

“The double-overtime victory over Georgia Tech (Jan. 22, 1989) which allowed the Illini to move into the No. 1 spot in the polls.” – The Frustrated Fan

“I have a few favorites like the 1989 “welcome back from the Final Four” with the yellow brick road and the first state tournament with my dad and a gre4at concert from Alabama and the Charlie Daniels band in the early 80s, but one of my favorite memories was my first Illini basketball game in 1984 when they played (and beat) 10th-ranked Oklahoma. That team was coached by Billy Tubbs and featured Waymon Tisdale, who turned out to be a class act by fighting cancer in a public form. He was also an outstanding jazz musicial. “ – Greg Reed

“My first big concert was at the Assembly Hall to see Three Dog Night. I went with Betsy Schuerman and we drove over in the Fiat her parents got her. We were sophomores at St. Teresa but we thought we were so cool. We didn’t realize we needed to pay attention to parking. Three Dog Night was great, but when the concert was over we couldn’t find our car and we were too embarrassed to ask for help. We literally waited until the place was completely empty and still had to flag down security to help us find the car. I turned down a chance to see Elvis. I think I was going to be too busy at The Winery or Lock, Stock & Barrel.” – Janet Ernst, Decatur

“There is a lot to choose from and being in the first graduating class is one of them. I had taught in Decatur for several years and went to the University of Illinois to get my master’s degree. That spring I was in the first class to use the Assembly Hall for the graduation ceremonies. It was with great pride that we marched into the ‘flying saucer’ to receive our diplomas.” – Betty Q. Smith

“It would be easy to say basketball as we have had season tickets for the last 19 years. But really, it was the time my wife and I sat in the stands and watched our son file in with the 1995 engineering graduating class with an orange and blue braid on his shoulder. That was the most memorable and pride-filled time. I am sure many parents feel the same way when their sons or daughters graduate at the Assembly Hall.” – John Barcalow

“In 1960 I started work at Illinois Power in Decatur. My young wife was still completing her education at the University of Illinois and we lved in Champaign at a trailer park on Kirby Avenue. I drove back and forth to my new job in Decatur. When I would go home, I would go a few blocks out of my way to see the Assembly Hall construction as it progressed.

“I particularly remember the workers winding bands of cable around the exterior where the two saucers were joined. It seemed beyond comprehension that they could wrap those cables all the way around that huge building. As I understood it, the cables added a compression that was necessary to keep the saucer pieces from expanding and collapsing.” – Phil Smith

“I remember being on the floor of the Assembly Hall as an assistant coach for two events involving Argenta-Oreana Bomber wrestling. One was when the Bombers took 4th place at team state. The other was when Cody Force wrestled in the individual championship match. It was like being under a microscope or being at the bottom of a funnel.” – Art Bartges

“I have to go with the Chief’s Last Dance on Feb. 21, 2007. When he made his exit from the floor and turned around and came back, that was so emotional. To this day, when I hear the playing of the ‘Three-in-One’ it still makes me think of the Chief doing his traditional dance.” – Mark Pieske

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