The college sports season is underway, and I feel like a kid at Christmas. One of the things that makes our community great is Illini sports. Our family loves college sports of all stripes: the pageantry and history of football; the finesse of basketball; the intensity of volleyball. Our family bucket list includes ticking down visits to every Illini team during the school year.
So how to do it? Here are a few tips:
1. Most events are free to attend. Yes, free. The majority of sporting events (link to full calendar) at the University of Illinois have no admission charge — zero, zip, nada. The ones that do have an admission charge are: volleyball, women’s basketball, and the two biggies — men’s basketball and football. But if you sign up your kids for the kids club …
2. Sign up your kids for the Fighting Illini Kids Club. There is a free package and also a $30 “premium” package. The premium package includes, among others things, two tickets to a select football game and two tickets to a select men’s basketball game. (For kids in 8th grade and younger).
3. Look out for special promotions. For little kids, the game action is often secondary to all the other fun stuff going on. Some Illini games have special elements such as autographs, special halftime shows, special food deals — or even free food! We sometimes call these out in Weekend Planner, but you can look at all of them in this nifty page on the Fighting Illini website promotions page.
4. Don’t dismiss the “less popular” sports, especially for kids. We love men’s basketball and football, but we’ve found that our kids love to get close to the action and feel much more a part of the atmosphere when we go to events that don’t draw the same kinds of crowds. Women’s basketball is a great way to introduce kids to State Farm Center and the basketball atmosphere; there’s cheerleaders, pep band, etc. Volleyball is a fantastic atmosphere. And the sports that are outside have plenty of room for kids to run around. Don’t all the athletes deserve our support?
5. Go to special events — even if you’re not going to the game. During football season, there’s Grange Grove (and tailgates of course) that will get your family involved in game day — whether or not you have a ticket. There are free activities at each game, such as inflatable games, face painting and much more. No ticket is necessary. The homecoming parade and pep rally is always fun. We’ll post them as we hear about them!
6. Pay attention to camps, clinics, or other such events. Some sports offer free clinics, although registration may be required; some may have fees. In the summer, the athletic department offers camps for kids of all ages, including some parent-child camps.
7. Lap tickets. Yes it’s true: everyone needs a ticket to get into football and men’s basketball games regardless of age. But infants and toddlers ages 2 and under are allowed to enter Memorial Stadium or the State Farm Center at a discounted ticket price. For $5, fans can purchase a lap ticket on the day of the game, but the infant or toddler must sit in the lap of an adult during the game. Lap tickets may not be purchased for use in the suites or club areas and cannot be used at postseason events. A game ticket must be presented in order to purchase a lap seat.
8. Bring a stroller to a game at State Farm Center, Huff Hall or Memorial Stadium at your own risk. Strollers are not allowed in those buildings; but many people have told us they leave their strollers outside. There are clear policies against strollers at those venues, but not defined for other places.
9. Be sure to know the rules regarding what you can bring into Memorial Stadium. There’s a new Clear Bag Policy in place for 2018, and we’ve put together a comprehensive post that explains how fans can best handle the situation.
What’s your family’s favorite “Illini” thing to do?