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On September 13, Illinois State volleyball defeated nationally-ranked Illinois in four sets in front of 3,850 Redbird fans. Not only did Illinois State take down its highest-ranked opponent since 1996, but they reopened the renovated Redbird Arena in style.

“You only get to reopen a new building every 30 years,” said Assistant Athletics Director Zach Schroeder. “We haven’t played Illinois in over 10 years, and we beat Illinois. It was kind of a perfect storm.”

Over the summer Redbird Arena underwent a series of upgrades to enhance the fan experience. The most noticeable difference is the lower bowl renovation. All of the seats in that section are now larger and cushioned, and have been moved closer to the court. Additionally, there are now loge boxes at the top of each section. The boxes offer an excellent view of the event, additional privacy, and easier access to Redbird Arena amenities.

“We think these upgrades provide a better viewing opportunity and a little bit more of an intimate environment from a fan perspective,” said Senior Associate Athletics Director Peyton Deterding.

The student section has also been expanded. There is now student seating on the north and south ends of Redbird Arena. Deterding said this will make Redbird Arena an even tougher place for opposing teams to play and result in a better in-game atmosphere for all fans.

“We want out students to affect both the first and second halves of a basketball game,” Deterding said. “We feel this allows them to have a better experience coming to games.”

Athletics has improved the audio-visual game day experience as well. Last winter, Redbird Arena received new LED lighting. The programmable lights are easier for arena staff to control and much more energy efficient. According to Deterding, the energy savings created by the new lighting will pay for the project in approximately nine years.

The enhanced LED lighting will be paired with a new interactive smartphone light show. Integrated into the Illinois State Athletics app through a partnership with CUE Audio, the technology is programmed to activate the flashlight on mobile phones to the beat of selected music. The show debuts November 1 when Redbird volleyball faces Missouri Valley Conference rival Bradley and will be part of the introduction video and starting lineups.

“The light show will take the experience to the fan’s cellphone, which we know they are all on,” Schroeder said.

Additionally, beer and wine sales are now available during all Redbird athletic events at Hancock Stadium and Redbird Arena. Plans to allow beer sales at Adelaide Street Field, Marian Kneer Stadium, and Duffy Bass Field are being finalized.

“That is one thing that we had heard over the course of several years is that this is something fans looked at to better their experience,” Deterding said. “It is another perk for fans to come to the games, enjoy the atmosphere, and cheer on the Redbirds.”

Schroeder said the totality of these upgrades will make Redbird sporting events more enticing for fans to attend.

“We know the challenges that we face in the entertainment industry. Everyone has other options,” he said. “So we thought, ‘What can we do to upgrade the fan experience? When they walk through that door, how is their game day going to be elevated?’ We think these changes are going to make for a more engaging, comfortable game day for all of our clientele.”

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