NIU Convocation Center welcoming fans back

Halftime+at+the+NIU+Convocation+Center+Dec.+18%2C+in+DeKalb.

Jarrett Huff | Northern Star

Halftime at the NIU Convocation Center Dec. 18, in DeKalb.

DeOndre Saunders, Sports Reporter

DeKALB – The NIU Convocation Center is home to many sporting events such as basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, wrestling, and indoor track and field. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fans of NIU athletics were not allowed to come to home games to support the teams last season.

Nationally, the NBA was the first sports organization to stop their season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19 before tip-off in a game against the Thunder in Oklahoma City in March 2020.

The NCAA allowed players to play games for the 2020-21 season, but fans were not allowed in most venues. This year, fans have been allowed to come to games to support their home team.

John Cheney, NIU’s deputy athletic director and director of operations, discussed the COVID-19 guidelines and allowing fans to come to support the men’s and women’s sports teams. 

“Everyone is required to wear a mask, and there will be no requirement for proof of vaccination and negative COVID testing,” Cheney said.

The Convocation Center is following guidelines similar to the United Center in Chicago. The United Center will be allowing fans back at games to support the Chicago Bulls as long as they follow health and safety protocols. 

Like the Convocation Center, the United Center requires everyone to wear a mask when attending Bulls games. The only difference with the United Center’s guidelines is that certain sections are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.

“I am excited about it,” Cheney said. “It’s going to be great for our student-athletes to be able to get together in a large venue, but we believe our safety will not be compromised in any way. I feel that it is a great opportunity for not just the campus community but the city of DeKalb to get together and cheer on our men’s and women’s basketball teams.”

There will be no worry for a section in the gym to be blocked off due to guidelines because every seating section will be open for fans, including both student sections. 

The Huskie Pep Band will be back at basketball games and will be located near the east basket. Most days, practice is open for spectators but could have some limited times within practices that they would be closed.

The men have an exhibition game against the University of St. Francis on Oct. 30 and open their regular season on the road against the University of Washington on at 9 p.m. Nov. 9.

The women play an exhibition game against Benedictine University on Friday and play their first game of the regular season against Illinois State University at home at 6 p.m. on Nov. 9.