A Publication of WTVP

Sports is a multi-colored world at the Peoria Civic Center (PCC). Each year, the variety of all PCC events may go largely unnoticed, as most people don’t attend every one of the 450 events the venue presents each year…from the Peoria Symphony to Yanni, WWE to Monster Jam, Tim McGraw to Elton John.

The variety, of course, continues in the sporting arena—pun intended! You might guess the total sporting attendance at the Civic Center. 50,000? 100,000? More? How about over 60 events, from hockey to hoops, roller skates to tumbling…and more than 180,000 fans in attendance. Unless you consider dodging people in the mosh pit a sport…then the number goes up!

The Peoria Rivermen skate more than 40 times a season in Carver Arena, playing against such regional competition as the Chicago Wolves in the American Hockey League. You know the arena is named after Mayor Dick Carver, a key figure in the development of the Peoria Civic Center back in the 1970s. Do you know how many championships the Rivermen have won while playing at the Civic Center? The answer is below!

One of the longest-running hockey teams in North America, the Rivermen have been in continuous operation since the 1982-83 season, when they began play as the Peoria Prancers of the Continental Hockey League. The Rivermen have played in the International Hockey League (1982-96), the East Coast Hockey League (1996-2005) and the American Hockey League (2005-present). They won the league trophy in 1985, the Turner Cup in 1991, and in 2000, the Kelly Cup. The correct answer is three.

When the PCC opened in 1982, Bradley University made Carver its home court for men’s basketball games, and each year they play about 15 games. Marquee players have included Mitchell “JJ” Anderson, the leader of the team that won the NIT back in the first year BU played at Carver in 1982, and Hersey Hawkins, who set many BU basketball records that still stand. Maybe you have forgotten how great the Hawk really was?

Hersey is the all-time Bradley scoring leader with 3,008 points, the season scoring leader with 1,125 points, and the single-game scoring leader with 63 points (vs. Detroit in 1988). Think he was just a shooter? Hawkins is also the all-time steals leader, with 259 thefts! He was a first-round draft pick and Olympic medalist, and played in an NBA Final (losing against MJ and the Bulls). If you can think of other achievements a basketball player can make, let me know.

Peoria loves its basketball, whether it’s the “War on 74” vs. ISU—always a big game—or the Missouri Valley conference games in January and February, playing against long-time league foes Wichita State and Creighton.

Want a memorable BU game? How about that sold-out-to-the-rafters “White Out” against Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans? A record crowd of 11,597 saw BU lead most of the game, only to miss some key shots at the end and lose 66-61.

More roundball recaps result in remembering that March Madness arrived in 1996 to the delight of high school basketball fans around the state, especially since Manual had already won two IHSA Boys Basketball Championships in a row! Now that the tournament moved to Peoria, could they continue their run? Or would it be harder? That question was answered, proving that sporting truth is stranger than sporting fiction. If you believe it, you can do it.

Those Manual Rams, led by Frank Williams at guard, Sergio McClain at forward and Marcus Griffith at center, won those championships in 1996, beating Harvey Thornton on the Carver Arena floor, and then, amazingly, made it to the championship game again in 1997, beating the same Harvey Thornton team for Manual’s fourth state title in a row. Playing in Peoria is now the goal of every basketball player in the state of Illinois—the only place high school students have ever known as the site for the IHSA Boys Basketball Championship Games.

Are there other sports that play Peoria? You bet! The Peoria Push Roller Derby ladies made their debut in 2011, with over 2,500 people in attendance, and they had so much fun, they said they’ll definitely be back for a few more rounds. The St. Jude Tumblers come each year, too, and bring nearly 7,000 people into the exhibit halls. The Midwest Cheerleading and IESA Cheer Championships bring in another 6,500 fans.

Peoria is fortunate to have a complex like the Peoria Civic Center, providing space for sporting memories to be made for almost 30 years. The staff does a super job keeping the place clean, safe and up-to-date. What other market our size has a video scoreboard that looks so good, I see fans watching the action on the board! Thanks for your support for all of the sporting events, and remember this old adage when you come on down: It’s a sport—be a sport! iBi