‘It’s like Christmas’: NIU Athletics announces official launch of indoor practice facility

By Brian Belford

The NIU Athletics Office announced Saturday the official launch and campaign details of the NIU Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Facility.

Things are moving quickly to make the building of the facility reality.

“This came together faster than any fundraiser campaign I remember,” said NIU President John Peters. “It’s definitely on the fast track. We have cash on hand and firm pledges that puts us at $7.5 million so far.”

The decision to build the facility was first announced at halftime of the Soldier Field showdown between NIU and Wisconsin, after Dr. Kenneth Chessick and his wife, Ellen, decided to donate $3 million toward the construction of the facility.

The details of the new 83,500 square foot facility outline state of the art equipment. A full-size, 100-yard field with artificial surfaces, two end-zones, 65 feet of height, batting cages, storage cages, a long jump pit, a four-lane sprint track, field goal nets and a retractable center net will allow for multi-sport usage. In building the facility, the athletics office conferred with all NIU coaches, asking them what they would like to have in the new facility.

“We really wanted to be able to have distance, and we got that with the full-sized field,” said Ed Mathey, NIU head baseball coach. “We’ll be able to run outfield simulations, have some simulated fly balls, throwing simulations and to be able to have two cages that will be able to drop down. From a baseball standpoint, it’s like Christmas.”

The design of the building has been thought over time and again. NIU Athletic Director Jeff Compher visited 10 different schools around the country to get an idea of how to build the right facility. The design will also take into account snowfall and rainfall, and the student-athlete entrance will be located on the west side of the Yordon Center, allowing for game day traffic to travel between the two facilities.

The total cost of the project is at an estimated $9.5 million and until that number is reached, a target date for when the facility can be finished and ready to use will remain out of sight.

“We have more to do,” Peters said. “We have to get formal designs and bid the project, I don’t have a date for you. But, the construction of the project will take about 12 to 14 months. The shovel-in-the-ground date will come when we reach $9.5 million.”

The Chessicks said they want the facility built so every student can enjoy an enhanced college experience at NIU and so the athletes can finally practice in something that will fit their needs.

“We love NIU; it’s a great environment, a great culture,” Dr. Chessick said. “Every student, not just student-athletes, deserve to have the best facilities and the best experience that they can. Right now, the team practices in a warehouse in Sycamore, so this is a great opportunity for our athletes to finally get to practice in a facility that is conducive to their needs”.