NIU recieves $3 million donation for indoor football facility


Northern Star File Photo

Dr. Kenneth and Ellen Chessick donated $3 million to help build the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Facility. The indoor facility will house all NIU sports.

By Brian Belford

Saturday afternoon turned out to be historical day for NIU athletics beyond the Soldier Field Showdown II.

NIU athletic director Jeff Compher announced that NIU athletics received $3 million donation to be put toward building an indoor football practice facility.

The announcement was made during halftime of the Wisconsin vs. NIU football game.

NIU Law graduate Kenneth Chessick and his wife Ellen, donated the money. The couple talked with the athletic program about donating for about two weeks.

The Chessicks had been discussed the project with Compher and the athletic department for a while before committing to their donation Tuesday.

“We found out on Tuesday after we talked to the Chessicks last week,” Compher said. “I’ve known the Chessicks ever since I got to NIU, and we connected pretty quickly. We had talked to a lot of people for a while, letting them know this project was going to get under way. Then last week the Chessicks accepted our formal invitation to donate.”

The Chessicks decided to donate to NIU because of their past history with the university, their belief in education and because they wanted to help NIU football build a championship team.

“This is a dream for us. I’ve been a Huskie since I attended in 1981,” said Chessick, a general surgeon and personal injury lawyer who is based out of Schaumburg, Ill. “We are dedicated to providing the best possible college education experience for our NIU students, and our student-athletes are instrumental to that experience. Providing this facility for our dedicated student-athletes to continue our winning tradition at NIU is a privilege for us.”

The facility’s arrival comes at a time when many MAC schools are updating their technology to gain an edge.

“Many of the schools in the MAC have an indoor facility,” Compher said. “Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan and Toledo have one, and Buffalo is in talks to have one put in. We understand the need to have it for our conference and ourselves for recruiting and to do the things we need to do to prepare ourselves for a championship.”

Compher added the facility will be constructed behind the Jeffery and Kimberly Yordon Center, which will allow NIU to take advantage of all the facilities that are already in place.

For NIU head coach Dave Doeren and his football team, the advent of the facility allows them the opportunity to play and practice in all weather.

“My goal is to develop a winning team here year in and year out, and help our players be the best they can be, and having a facility that allows us to do that year round is a key step,” Doeren said. “Right now, if there is lightning, snow or ice, we can’t practice. This allows us to take a step towards where we really want to go as a program.”

More money will be needed before construction can begin on the indoor facility, so an exact date of when it will be all done is uncertain.

“The timeline is a bit fluid,” Compher said. “We’re still in the process of getting additional funds raised.”

Compher offered an estimate for how the athletic program still needs to accomplish everything that needs to get done.

“I think we need about 6 million dollars, but we are trying to raise 7.5 million to get everything done,” Compher said. “When we announce the campaign to raise the money, then we can start the architectural drawings, the engineering drawings [and] start to bid out the project. We have to do all of those things before we can put a shovel in the ground.”