University of Illinois Assembly Hall
The Assembly Hall was born out of a need for a single arena that could seat an entire University class. The growing number of students had long since overwhelmed the Auditorium's (Foellinger) seating capacity, so on Honors Day, Friday, May 3, 1963, the new Assembly Hall was dedicated. Designed by Max Abramovitz, the $8.7M building is one of the world's largest edge-supported structures. Abramovitz also designed the Krannert Center for Performing Arts and his firm was responsible for the Philharmonic Hall, the RCA Music Hall, the Time-Life building and the Metropolitan Opera House. When the Assembly Hall was first built, it bordered the University's 9-hole golf course, which later gave way to additional parking for the Hall as its popularity grew.
The building was constructed on a truly massive scale in every respect. The 400-foot diameter of the building reaches its peak at 128 feet above the center floor. During construction a special horizontal-wheeled tractor was borrowed from missile silo work to wind 614 miles of 1/5" steel wire around the dome's edge, circiling the dome 2, 467 times. This placed more than 130, 000 pounds per square inch of tension on the concrete, which caused it to squeeze inward and rise upwards, such that the 800, 000 square feet of wooden scaffolding which had supported the concrete when it was poured was uncovered and removed. The dome today is 2 inches less than it was when it was originally poured due to this operation. Even the concourse was built on an impressive scale, with 24 bridges leading onto the quarter mile concourse, which is lit by 24 skylights.
A building with such impressive construction pedigree should have a seating capacity to match, and the Assembly Hall does not disappoint. The building has 16, 000 permanent seats and for sports events and performances an additional 2, 000 temporary seats can be brought in. The center floor can also be covered with 225 sectional panels to create a regulation basketball court, and a unique theater grid hovers 85 feet above the ground.
Today the Assembly Hall is the largest venue in Illinois outside of the Chicago United Center and has played host to such performers as The Rolling Stones, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, U2, and The Harlem Globetrotters.
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