Illinois is a basketball school, that’s what they say. And of course that statement typically refers to the men’s team. It’s surprising to me after all these years of being a pretty active watcher of Illini women’s basketball, that people haven’t caught on to what a great experience it is.
Granted, the program has struggled to find victories in recent years. But for families, you can’t beat the entertainment value, the ease of attending, and best of all: the FUN QUOTIENT!
This year especially, there’s a new energy for the orange and blue this season. We’re really excited about the uptempo, high-scoring brand of basketball that new coach Nancy Fahey has brought to Champaign and the State Farm Center.
Our top five reasons why Illinois women’s basketball is great for families:
1) It’s all the pageantry and antics of a men’s basketball game, without the men’s basketball price tag. Taking a family of four to a men’s game is an investment, especially during Big Ten season. While that’s great for once in awhile, women’s games are affordable enough — $5 for general admission tickets — that families can go often. You can even sit in a floor seat for just a bit more! Kids have an Illini kids club membership? If so, show your card at the door and they get in free. YES, FREE!
2) Parking is free. Yes, I said FREE. And with smaller crowds, you don’t have to worry about walking from Research Park with your kids in frigid temps.
3) Player accessibility and giveaways. The women’s basketball players are very friendly! We love the post-game autograph sessions when available, typically on Sundays. Giveaways are commonplace — the Illini pop sockets earlier this year were a big hit with kids and grownups alike. Check the promotions ahead of time HERE.
4) Family-friendly start times. It’s rare to have a women’s game start at 8 p.m., which has become the norm for the men — start times are typically dictated by television. For the Illini women, afternoon games are the norm on weekends, and 7 p.m. tips on weeknights are more typical.
5) The band, the cheerleaders, and the pageantry — without the intense crowd. Earlier in this article we mentioned that a women’s game has the band, cheer and all that jazz, but in an atmosphere that’s a bit more laid back — in a good way.
BONUS TIP: If your kids love to dance and get silly, this is a great place. Especially if they enjoy seeing themselves on the video board (above). Be sure to wear your orange!
This is the second article in an occasional series highlighting Illini sports. A few months ago, we told you all about why it’s a great idea to take the family to Illini volleyball.