NIU tennis: Chick Evans Field House to become tennis courts

By Frank Gogola

Men’s and women’s tennis’ trips to practice are about to get a whole lot shorter as they’ll soon be able to call the Chick Evans Field House their practice home.

Athletic Director Sean Frazier said three tennis courts will be installed in the Chick Evans Field House before the end of March. Winter weather in DeKalb and Massachusetts — where the vendor of the floors is located — forced delays in the product getting to campus, he said.

“We were hoping to have it done by now,” Frazier said. “It’s just taken longer because the product and snowstorms and weather have slowed us down a tad.”

There are four multipurpose courts for basketball, floor hockey, indoor soccer and volleyball in the Chick Evans Field House. When the tennis courts are installed the teams will be able to practice on campus during inclement weather instead of driving to the Vaughan Tennis Center in Aurora, which is a 30-minute trip each way. Patrick Fisher, men’s tennis head coach, said during winter months the team practices off campus nearly every day it’s not playing a match.

Practicing on campus “would save our guys a couple hours a day,” Fisher said. “For us to do a two-hour practice it’s about a four-and-a-half-hour time slot. … I think [practicing on campus] would be huge and it would free up valuable time for our kids to be able to participate in other things and have time for more things.”

Frazier said President Doug Baker has been “quite supportive” of the transformation of the Chick Evans Field House.

“It’s just something that’s way overdue, and we’re excited about finally having our men’s and women’s tennis programs practice on campus,” Frazier said. “You could imagine traveling [with] the safety concerns attached to that [and] competition concerns attached to that, and both our programs have been quite successful.”

Fisher said the Recreation Center has tennis courts, but the surface isn’t similar to what the men’s and women’s teams play their matches on, which is why they travel off campus. He said what he’s been told is the surface in the Chick Evans Field House will be the same type of surface the tennis teams play on.

“That’s the whole reasoning behind changing it from what is currently in there to a tennis surface,” Fisher said. “A tennis surface is completely different than, say, a rubberized surface or a basketball-type of surface. … People think, ‘Well, you’ve got the lines and you’ve got the surface, that should be OK,’ but … it’s just two separate things.”

John Cheney, senior associate athletic director of facilities and event operations, said the Chick Evans Field House will be used for practices, not games. Frazier said the money spent on renting practice facilities off campus will be diverted to the court installation.

“What we’re going to do [after the floors are down] is turn those facilities and control over to rec sports, and they will have the capacity to be able to rent and to serve the community and the campus,” Frazier said. “It’s a true partnership.”