In his annual State of the University Address, Illinois State University President Al Bowman today announced plans for major renovations to Hancock Stadium by the fall of 2013. The proposed upgrades to the highly visible campus landmark will include new east-side grandstands and enhancements of existing facilities within the stadium.

Bowman made the announcement about stadium renovations after consulting with student, faculty, staff, and governing board leadership. The approximately $20 million project will be paid for through a variety of funding sources.

“Student fees will be a prime source of funding, but I want to stress that this project will not trigger a hike in student fees, nor will we ask students to pay any new fees,” said Bowman. “The fees students already pay to support athletics will be directed toward the Hancock Stadium project. Finally, we will seek funding from outside of the University, mostly in the form of gifts. I can tell you today, that we have several groups interested in joining Illinois State in this initiative.”

Bowman stressed the importance of the renovations, given Hancock Stadium’s prominent location on Main Street and its function as a gateway to the University. Enhancement will include a new east-side grandstand with brick columns and glass walls to provide a more attractive and inviting presence on Main Street. Outdoor terrace spaces, suite and club seating and improved concession areas and restrooms will also be a part of the project.

“When it was built 50 years ago, Hancock Stadium was a fine proud facility,” Bowman said.  “But during these last 50 years, the infrastructure hasn’t received a single significant upgrade and it threatens to become an embarrassment. Hancock Stadium’s functions are too important and its placement on campus too central to allow its deterioration to continue. The entire University community will benefit from the project, as will our community partners in Normal and Bloomington. We all need Hancock Stadium to reflect the excellence and growing reputation of Illinois State.”

Illinois State’s excellent reputation, even during times of state budget shortfalls, was a major theme of Bowman’s address. He noted that while other universities face declining enrollment, salary freezes, layoffs, and contentious relations on campus, Illinois State remains strong and united in its mission. “Over the past decade, Illinois State has rightfully patted itself on the back for charting its own course, working as one community to create and adhere to its own priorities and setting itself apart from other Illinois public universities,” Bowman said.

Bowman commended the University’s efforts to strengthen student recruitment and maintain its commitment to excellence in teaching and service. Those efforts have resulted in an academically talented 2011–2012 freshman class and the largest total student population since 1992.

“Our new freshman enrollment stands at 3,321 and transfer enrollment tops 1,826,” said Bowman. “Our total student population is 21,080, just barely over our 20,000–21,000 target. But in this environment of economic malaise and heightened competition, I think you will agree it is a circumstance we cannot only live with, but should applaud.”

Incoming freshman have an average ACT score near 24 and a grade point average of 3.38. The number of incoming students with ACT scores of 33 to 36 is almost three times higher than last academic year. Student diversity has also increased, with non-white students comprising about 18 percent of the incoming freshman class. African-American enrollment showed the biggest jump with an increase of 26 percent over fall 2010.

“According to the Chronicle Almanac, from 2003 to 2008 Illinois State’s graduation rate rose a whopping 11 percent,” said Bowman.  “Among all of the public research universities in these United States, only five bettered that 11 percent leap and only one of the five has a higher graduation rate than Illinois State.”

Looking to the future, Bowman outlined plans to revise and update Educating Illinois, Illinois State’s strategic plan, which he credits as being the blueprint for the University’s success over the past decade.  He also announced the creation of the comprehensive IT Strategic Plan 2011–2013 to study future technology needs and conduct a cost-benefit analysis of current IT services.

President Al Bowman’s State of the University Address can be viewed in its entirety at[nggallery id=9]