Local family gives $7 million to UI Athletics for new facility

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URBANA, Ill. (WAND) - Decatur entrepreneurs are the face behind the newly announced Demirjian Park, the new home for Illini Soccer and Track and Field.

University of Illinois Director of Athletics Josh Whitman announced the plans Wednesday for the construction for the new facility.

The new complex will be named Demirjian Park, in honor of a lead gift from the Demirjian family from Decatur. The project will will be executed in phases with full completion scheduled for the spring of 2021. The UI Board of Trustees will still need to approve the park.

To support the project, the Demirjian family, led by UI alumni Richard Demirjian (LAS, '88) and Kara Demirjian-Huss (ACES, '92), has provided a gift of $7 million. Whitman says this is one of the largest single gifts in the history of Illinois Athletics. Previously, the family has endowed scholarships and been active in premium seating at both Memorial Stadium and State Farm Center. The Demirjians also provided the lead gift for construction of the Demirjian Indoor Golf Practice Facility, which opened in 2007.

"We believe in Josh Whitman's vision, recognize the opportunity and realize that the time is now to make a difference," Richard Demirjian said. "For us, this investment is about a holistic approach to student athletics-providing training, practice and study centers in one state-of-the-art, multi-purpose facility. It's also about providing functional, efficient resources to create an interconnected environment and shared home that delivers success in Division I athletics and academics."

The new Demirjian Park will feature two new soccer fields, one for competition and one for practice. The stadium will directly benefit more than 25 percent of the Fighting Illini student-athlete population by housing team facilities for women's soccer, men's track and field, and women's track and field. State-of-the-art amenities will include locker rooms, video and meeting rooms, lounge and study spaces, sports medicine and nutrition facilities, and coaches' offices. It will also contain spaces for visiting teams and officials.

The stadium's innovative design will feature dual grandstands that provide excellent sightlines onto both the soccer and track venues. Fans will enjoy permanent restroom and concessions facilities; high connectivity and advanced use of technology, including LED lighting, a new video board and new sound system; and new parking, concourses and entry plazas.

On behalf of our student-athletes, I'd like to extend my gratitude to the Demirjian family," said Illini track and field coach Mike Turk said. "Their vision for the future of Illinois track and field will inspire generations of Illini athletes, and have an immediate impact on our recruiting efforts with this cutting-edge facility. The objective of our program is to shape a positive, all-inclusive experience for our student athletes. This experience balances their academic and athletic goals along with their personal development and, ultimately, shapes individuals who will become positive contributors to society and leaders in the world. Demirjian Park is a key piece to the puzzle that we've been missing for decades. This gift will have a huge impact on our program and the student-athlete experience and serves as a shining example of service to others. It is so special for our program to finally have a home, and I cannot fully express my undying gratitude to the Demirjian family."

The Demirjian family includes Richard and Anne Demirjian, Kara Demirjian-Huss and Mark Huss, Simone Demirjian, and J. Gerald Demirjian. The Demirjians have long been leaders in business and local philanthropy. Richard is a member of DIA's campaign steering committee, and Kara serves on the University-wide campaign steering committee.   

"This investment links two of our family's philanthropic pillars: education and economic development," said Kara Demirjian-Huss. "Not only will it have clear-cut benefits for these University soccer and track and field programs, but it also will provide facilities that can attract national events and regional training. We are excited to collaborate with the University on Demirjian Park to create a legacy and deliver the ideal experience to attract student-athletes and wow spectators. We foresee a strong economic impact for our region and applaud the University for their widespread vision and strong sense of University and community pride."

Construction of the new soccer fields will be completed in time for the 2019 season. Demirjian Park Stadium will be open for the 2021 track and field season, which will allow Illinois to host the 2021 Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Renovations to the track and accompanying field event venues will be performed as a separate project.

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