Funds derived from luxury suites, club seating and loge boxes would play a key role in funding model, just like it did in recent Memorial Stadium project.


 And the envelope please.

After surveying scholarship fund members and season ticket holders -- a list that totaled 7,000 -- the Illinois athletic department is studying demand for premium seating in the Assembly Hall project while also floating estimates for costs of luxury suites, club seating and loge boxes when the 50-year-old building is renovated.

"We're reaching out to our fan base, and certainly it's the same thing that was done during the Memorial Stadium project,'' Illinois athletic director Mike Thomas said. "The feedback they received from the survey and how they used to it for Memorial Stadium was pretty much on target.''

Following the survey results, Illinois will get schematic drawings from the architects by the end of September, Thomas said. With fundraising the next step, construction on the project estimated at $150 million to $160 million likely wouldn't begin until the spring of 2014.

Thomas said trying to start construction during next spring and summer would be "very aggressive.''

The survey will gauge demand in each type of premium seating, therefore allowing architects to accurately design a space to fill the needs. Interest in premium seating is strong, Thomas said.

"Whatever you do with one premium opportunity, it will affect another,'' Thomas said. "If you put more luxury suites in there, the capacity for loge boxes and club seats  is reduced.

"We're not expanding the building. The space is what it is. We have to figure what's the right mix, what's the right return on our investment. The survey will tell us where the real interest lies.''

According to the survey, Illinois gave rough price estimates on the choices and options.

-- Luxury suites in A section would include about 12 to 14 seats and cost $60,000 annually.

-- Club seats in A section would include a expanded food and beverage service plus a lounge elsewhere in the building in a similar plan as used in Memorial Stadium. Derived from other sites, the estimated cost is $2,500 to $4,000 per seat.

-- Loge boxes each have four seats in A section that could range from $12,000 to $16,000 annually.

Prices may change, depending on a five-, seven- or 10-year agreement. Pre-paying could also bring a substantial discount.

A more likely scenario for Illinois is the start of construction in the spring of 2014 in a renovation that would span two basketball seasons. Thomas won't displace the Illini basketball teams during the project, he said.

NOTE: Former Illini football coach Ron Zook has joined the broadcast crew for the CBS Sports Network. . . .    John Supinie can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Johnsupinie.