Booster Gift Allows Illini Athletics To Take Over Stone Creek Golf Club

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Illinois athletics department has obtained and will operate Stone Creek Golf Club for the purpose of turning the property into the home course for the Illini men’s and women’s golf programs.

The Illinois athletics department announced Tuesday morning via a media release that a prominent booster family (The Atkins Group) donated more than 300 acres of real estate in southeast Urbana, highlighted by Stone Creek Golf Club and its associated buildings and equipment, to the University of Illinois and the University of Illinois Foundation.

“We are so grateful to Susie, Spencer, Todd, Suzette, and the entire Atkins family for their continued generosity to the University of Illinois and Fighting Illini Athletics,” Illinois athletics director Josh Whitman said in the media release. “Working with them to develop the full breadth of this remarkable gift has been a true pleasure. We are excited about the future of the golf course and the benefits it will have for our varsity golf programs and, of equal importance, our entire community. We believe such a broad-based, visible presence from the University will help generate great value and stability to the homeowners and businesses in southeast Urbana.”

The plan is for the golf club to remain closed for the 2020 season while undergoing improvements, specifically turning the facility into a championship-caliber public course before it officially becomes the home of the Illini men’s and women’s golf programs. The total value of the gift exceeds $15 million and as a reciprocation for the transfer from the Atkins family to the U of I, the golf course will be renamed The Atkins Golf Club at the University of Illinois, pending approval by the university board of trustees.

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Stone Creek Golf Club is an 18-hole public golf course located in Urbana, Ill., on approximately 190 acres of land. TAG, owner of Stone Creek since its opening in 2000.Photo provided by University of Illinois athletics department and Stone Creek Golf Club.

Stone Creek Golf Club is an 18-hole public golf course located in Urbana, Ill., on approximately 190 acres of land. TAG, owner of Stone Creek since its opening in 2000, closed the course in January of this year and the University of Illinois publicly announced plans in March of 2020 to form an exploratory committee to figure out a way to purchase the land and continue its operation.

“We are excited for the opportunity to connect with the University of Illinois, again,” said Spencer Atkins. “As discussions progressed, it became clear to the family that a donation befitting our mission would be in line with the University’s vision and our commitment to the community.”

The facility upgrades also include the Illinois athletics department hiring a golf course management company and developing plans to reopen the restaurant and dining facilities, the pro shop and other banquet and hospitality spaces. The newly formulated Atkins Golf Club at the University of Illinois is expected to open for public play in the spring of 2021.

“The overwhelming generosity of the Atkins family towards the (athletics department) has been a constant for many years,” Illinois men’s golf head coach Mike Small said. “Our golf teams have always felt very welcome at Stone Creek, and we have been privileged to call Stone Creek our home for close to 20 years. Now, with the gifting of the golf course, we can continue to improve and update the facility with the intent to rival the top collegiate golf courses in the nation.”

The gift also includes significant real estate in and around the golf club, including more than 100 residential lots, 70 acres of undeveloped acreage, and a large commercial parcel. The holdings, including any income they may generate, will benefit a number of University of Illinois entities, including the DIA, the Gies College of Business, the Offices of the Chancellor and the Provost, and the University of Illinois Foundation.

“The only thing that exceeds the generosity of this gift by the Atkins family is the positive impact it will have on our university and on our local community for decades to come,” said University of Illinois chancellor Robert J. Jones. “We’re excited that we have a permanent home for our golf teams, but also about the impact it will have on our local economy and for the support it will provide to many other university programs.”

The Atkins Group is an Urbana-based real estate development firm founded by Susie Atkins and her late husband, Clint. The golf course donation is another in a long line of charitable gifts from the Atkins family to Fighting Illini Athletics. A lead gift from the family allowed for construction of the Atkins Tennis Center in 1991. The Atkins were original lessors of the Founders' Suites in Memorial Stadium following its renovation in 2008. Most recently, in November 2018, Susie Atkins pledged a $3 million gift that made possible the new Susan and Clint Atkins Baseball Training Center, to open in late 2021.

“The Atkins family continues to invest in Illinois Athletics and our student-athletes with their gift of The Atkins Golf Club,” Illinois women’s golf head coach Renee Slone said. “We are excited about the possibilities this provides for our men’s and women’s golf teams and look forward to the opportunity of hosting future championship events. We greatly appreciate the generous support of the Atkins family to provide yet another resource for our student-athletes.”

With this gift, the Illinois Office of Athletics Development has secured its fifth naming gift in the past two years. In addition to the two Atkins gifts, other naming gifts have included funding and support for Demirjian Park, the new home of Fighting Illini track and field and soccer; the Henry Dale and Betty Smith Football Facility building and the Rex and Alice A. Martin Softball Training Center.

The gift counts toward the $300 million fundraising goal for the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is part of "With Illinois," the $2.25 billion University-wide fundraising campaign.

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