Huskie Stadium to undergo facelift


The NIU athletic department plans to announce a major renovation project for Huskie Stadium later this spring. The project will involve two phases to improve the present seating and other spectator facilities.

When asked why the stadium is in need of a renovation, NIU Athletic Director Gerald O’Dell stressed the fact that the stadium has become dysfunctional.

“Over the years, the fields and facilities used by the athletic department have become dysfunctional due to overcrowding and physical limitations of the existing structures. This strain has developed from many factors.

“Within the past twenty years, several phenomena occurred nationally that have had a significant impact upon athletic facilities, particularly on the campuses of major universities like Northern Illinois University. This includes the emergence of women’s sports, changes in the occurrence and duration of sport seasons, heavy year-round use of facilities, emphasis on spectator sports, the centralization of administrative activities and severe limitations on available resources.”

According to O’Dell the project will be split into two phases. Phase one, which would begin after the final home game of the 1993 season, would focus on the improvement of seating on the west side of the stadium. Chair backs would be installed on a number of seats on either side of the fifty yard line.

Phase two, which would begin following the last home game of the 1994 season, involves the creation of more patron facilities (bathrooms, concessions, etc.), renovation of the seating in the north and south end zones and a renovation of the seating on the east side of the stadium.

On the topic of the east side of the stadium, O’Dell was reminded of one of the first questions asked of him when he was hired back in 1987.

“Someone asked ‘When are you going to build the east side so

He have a real stadium?’.”

After the completion of the first phase, Huskie Stadium will lose a few seats and NIU will fall slightly below the seating capacity of 30,000 required to maintain Division I-A status. They will have to petition the NCAA for a one year waiver on the capacity rule before the completion of phase two brings the stadium back up to the required NCAA Division I-A capacity.

The budget for phase one has already been approved and O’Dell stressed the fact that the funds are not coming from the students.

“They (funds) will come from revenue bonds as a part of the covenant bond for that facility and private donations. Those funds (revenue bonds) are dedicated only to the replacement and repair of those facilities. Huskie Stadium was built in 1965. It has had no major renovations on it to this date.” said O’Dell. “We have done a tremendous job for our non-revenue sports—baseball, softball, soccer, and tennis. Now it’s time to start focusing on the sports that are going to generate revenue.”

O’Dell feels strongly that the renovations to Huskie Stadium are a step in the right direction for the Huskie football team in generating revenue.

“We have to look at our facilities as generating revenue. That means gate receipts, fans, friends and alumni who will contribute in various ways, who will not only generate (money) for new facilities, but for the entire athletic department as well.” said O’Dell.

Another aspect of putting people in the seats is scheduling, which O’Dell seems to have a remedy for in the coming years. For starters, NIU will be in a conference again. As a new member of the Big West Conference, NIU will host a minimum of three conference games each year. NIU has also beefed up its home non-conference schedule down the road. Schools like Oklahoma State, Louisville, Cincinnati, Mississippi, Texas-El Paso, Kansas State, and Vanderbilt are all scheduled to make visits to Huskie Stadium.

“It is true, we are not filling up the stadium today. Look at the schedule from a conference standpoint and a non-conference standpoint. Its a real compliment to NIU to have schools like Mississippi, Vanderbilt and Oklahoma State come and play us. People are going to come watch Huskie football. People are going to want to come to a quality facility.”