Huskie Stadium turns 50


An aerial view of the Huskie Stadium.

By Sabreena Saleem

A small piece of sod from Glidden Field was planted at the 1965 opening of Huskie Stadium to symbolize the change of football activities to the new stadium — a facility that continues to grow.

NIU’s football team competed on the Glidden Field before the Huskie Stadium was even an idea. The Huskies’ former home was located off of Lucinda Avenue and Gilbert Way where Jack Arrends Hall and the Music Building stand today. The 1965 team played its first three home games at the Glidden Field and its last two, including Homecoming, at the Huskie Stadium.

Students voted to increase their bond revenue fee by $17 per year in 1963 so that the stadium could be constructed, according to a Nov. 3, 1965 Northern Star article. The Athletic Board, NIU and the Men’s Physical Education department worked with Holabird and Root, Chicago architects and engineers, in the planning process.

The Illinois General Assembly passed a bill in spring of 1963 appropriating $450,000 for physical education facilities to be located underneath the stadium, and the final plans were approved by the Board of Governors of State Colleges and Universities in October of 1963, according to the Northern Star. Building began in January of 1964, and the stadium was set to be completed by Sept. 18, 1965, the football team’s first home game of the year; however, between the late arrival of spring and delays by the steel fabricating contractor, the opening was postponed.

The stadium, originally called NIU Stadium, cost $2,260,000 to build, according to the Northern Star, and was originally constructed to accommodate 20,257 spectators, according to NIU Athletics.

NIU Stadium finally opened on Nov. 6, 1965 — football’s Homecoming — and was dedicated at half-time. The dedication included a show by the Marching Huskies Band, a turf-planting ceremony by Alphi Phi Omega and the symbolic planting of sod from Glidden Field, according to a Nov. 5, 1965 Northern Star article.

Upgrades and modifications

The stadium was carpeted in AstroTurf in 1969 and recarpeted in 1980 and 1990 before being replaced by FieldTurf in 2001, according to NIU Athletics. NIU beat Idaho on Sept. 20, 1969 — a 47-30 NIU victory that marked the state’s first major-college gridiron contest played on artificial turf, according to NIU Athletics.

The stadium’s capacity was temporarily expanded to 30,998 seats in 1982, including several rows of field-level benches. A handicapped-accessible seating area was added in 1991. This plan also provided for renovated locker rooms and a seating section that included chairback and benchback seats. Alterations in 1993 and 1994, which included the incorporation of chairbacks on more seats as well as the creation of more patron facilities, reduced the stadium’s capacity, according to a Feb. 11, 1993 Northern Star article. The stadium’s capacity is 24,000 today.

A number of scoreboard upgrades and replacements occurred between 2000 and 2001, and again in Sept. 2013. The scoreboards now feature high definition displays.

The facility was rededicated as Brigham Field on August 28, 2003, as a tribute to Robert J. Brigham, who served as a student-athlete, assistant coach, head coach, director of athletics, and special assistant to the president before his retirement in June 2001, according to NIU Athletics; however, the facility is mostly referred to as Huskie Stadium.

Future plans

The stadium’s capacity, among other things, will be affected once again — this time by Athletics Director Sean Frazier’s Facilities Master Plan. The plan will add seating to the south side of Huskie Stadium, increasing its capacity to more than 30,000 and giving it a horseshoe shape.

The changes will cost about $138 million, which will be privately funded. Other additions include a baseball stadium, a tennis facility and an Olympics sports facility. A timeline for the facility’s upgrades has still not been released.

“I want Huskie Stadium to be open 365 days a year,” Frazier said, according to a March 5 Northern Star article. “There’s something very collegial about college stadiums and college athletic facilities that the general student population really wants to be a part of.”

NIU will celebrate 50 years of the Huskie Stadium at its 109th annual Homecoming game Saturday. The Huskies will face Eastern Michigan at 2:30 p.m.