NIU athletics facilities to get $138M upgrades


A render of an overhauled Huskie Stadium.

By Frank Gogola

Huskie Stadium and its athletic facilities will see overhauls to the tune of an estimated $138 million as part of Athletic Director Sean Frazier’s Facility Master Plan.

The facilities overhauls will be privately funded through donors and supporters, Frazier said at a Thursday news conference. Income from specialized seating and new amenities will help defray the cost.

“This is the start,” Frazier said. “This is the part of the process of putting all of our priorities together. … We have to be good stewards of our resources… . The only way we’re going to be able to get these things done is through private gifts and passion about NIU Athletics.”

No timeline for the overhaul was presented at the news conference, although Frazier said determining what gets done first includes taking into consideration the need of each sports program, donor interest and being strategic. The first project will be identified by the spring.

Huskie Stadium

Plans revealed at the Thursday news conference showed Huskie Stadium will have a horseshoe shape after end zone seating is added to the south side of the stadium. Seating will increase to 30,000-35,000, with the potential to go up to 42,000; it is currently about 24,000. Frazier said naming rights for the stadium may be available.

“We always want more seats, but we also people to fill those seats,” Frazier said. “But we want something very intimate. We have a great, great facility right now. What we want to do is build off of that. When that thing is full nobody wants to play in Huskie Stadium. It is definitely a difference-maker when you’re out there.”

The west side of the stadium will feature a full concourse after the relocation of gymnastics and wrestling practice areas. There will also be more concessions and easily accessible restrooms.

The east side will contain luxury seating options, including suites, double suites, loge box seating, a club lounge and indoor and outdoor club seating.

New complexes

Additions to NIU’s athletic complex include a baseball stadium, a tennis facility and an Olympic sports facility.

The baseball stadium, with a turf field, will be located northeast of the Convocation Center and south of the Outdoor Recreation Sports Complex. The current field, Ralph McKinzie Field, is grass, and baseball head coach Ed Mathey said the turf won’t be affected by weather as much.

“For me, the turf field is ones that’s a necessity,” Mathey said. “I like the whole package, but that’s the necessity because in our climate, in our region it’s something that would allow us to keep the games on schedule better. More importantly, for me as a coach, it allows you to get your practices in on your field a lot more.”

The tennis facility and the Olympic sports facility will be located west of the Chessick Practice Center. It will be the home of the men’s and women’s tennis programs and will contain four indoor tennis courts and locker rooms.

Frazier said Athletics will explore allowing court time to be rented to community members and non-student-athletes.

The Olympic sports facility will be west of the tennis facility and will include practice areas for golf, gymnastics and wrestling and locker rooms for multiple sports.

“The fact that we’re in two gyms is kind of a handcuff just from a scheduling practice, running practice, just the ins and outs of every day,” said gymnastics head coach Sam Morreale. “So, the fact that we would be in one facility would be outstanding.”


In addition to Huskie Stadium, the Convocation Center and Mary M. Bell Field will see updates.

The Convocation Center will have a ring around the outside of the seating area to connect the lobbies on the north and south sides. Fans will be able to walk the concourse from one side of the center to the other without having to enter the seating area.

Mary M. Bell Field will see an increase from 650 seats to 1,000 seats as well as additions of restrooms, concessions and locker rooms.

Football head coach Rod Carey said he expects the new complexes and upgrades to help in recruiting and bringing together the community.

“Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program,” Carey said. “… It’s going to add to us just unbelievable recruiting ability. … I think it’s the right thing to do for our community. … We have some fine student-athletes here, and now the community has just so embraced us that now it’s time to get the facilities, overall on campus, where they’re very community-friendly and student-[friendly], not just student-athlete, … so that you really can create the environment seven days a week that you have around here often.”