After 145 years, Marching Illini getting a home

CHAMPAIGN (AP) — The Marching Illini have been on the move for more than a century. But for practice, anyway, they'll finally put down some roots starting next year.

The 145-year-old University of Illinois marching band will get its first-ever permanent practicing facility next year.

The 370-member band will have to share it with Campus Recreation, but a new artificial turf field on the west side of campus will be home, The (Champaign) News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/15F21rL ) reported.

"We haven't had a permanent practice field in the history of the Marching Illini," said Barry Houser, Marching Illini director and assistant director of UI bands.

That history dates to 1868, the year after the university was founded. That makes it the country's oldest college marching band.

But through its history the band has moved regularly. Currently it uses the Memorial Stadium field two days a week but otherwise shuttles between other open grassy areas on campus. Some of those spots, like an open area on the campus' South Quad, have been less than ideal. That spot in particular was the target of a petition drive last summer by band supporters, who complained about holes and bare patches.

The new field will cost $3 million to cover in turf, according to the university. Campus Recreation will cover the costs and get access to the field.

Robyn Deterding is director of Campus Recreation and says the deal will benefit both her department and the band.

"It's an excellent way to help the band, which is a huge group on our campus," Deterding said. "And our students are going to get more fields."

Work on the new field should start in January and be finished by next summer, campus officials said.

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Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com