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Familiar ground

Huskie Stadium home to many stories, history of NIU athletics

Huskie Stadium has been the home of Northern Illinois football since 1965.
Huskie Stadium has been the home of Northern Illinois football since 1965.

DeKALB – Huskie Stadium has been home to so many memories since it opened in 1965.

The 48-6 homecoming victory against Illinois State on Nov. 6, 1965, christened the stadium. The first collegiate soccer match on AstroTurf, a 5-0 NIU victory against Marquette in 1969, proved how versatile the stadium could be. The stadium improved with the addition of the East grandstands in 1995 and a new end zone scoreboard in 2000.

The outside of the stadium itself hasn’t changed much since then, with the exception of the new FieldTurf installed in May. But since the opening of the Yordon Center two years ago, the inside of Huskie Stadium has undergone some pretty big changes.

On a recent tour of the stadium, the Daily Chronicle got to explore those changes up close.

If you’ve attended a game at Huskie Stadium and sat on the West side, you’ve probably seen a small sign that says “Media Room” near a concession stand. That’s where post-game news conferences used to take place before the Yordon Center was built. Now, it’s where the soccer, baseball and softball teams meet on a regular basis and watch film.

Through the double doors that are off-limits to fans are the locker rooms and an equipment room.

The wood lockers that once belonged to the football team now house baseball, men’s soccer and wrestling. An old-school running Huskie logo still greets those who enter, and it’s next to either the strangest or the coolest relic of the room – a massive weight scale that can hold a couple of adults.

The women’s soccer locker room has a little more style and flair to it. The lockers are decorated with art and photos of the players and the room has more of a home-like feel to it than the men’s locker room. It also is where the DeKalb football team dresses when the Barbs play at Huskie Stadium.

One thing has stayed the same, and that is that Huskie Stadium never was constructed to make the visiting team feel comfortable.

Inside the visitor’s locker room for football are rows of lockers no more than 6 inches wide, barely enough to fit a pair of shoes. The reason the visiting team exits its locker room underneath the West stands one at a time is because that’s all that will fit through the door, hardly intimidating compared to the double doors NIU exits from the Yordon Center.

This past year also was the first time the gymnastics and wrestling teams had their own rooms at Huskie Stadium. The wrestling room received a new paint job last year. The room also is the old weight room before that moved to the Yordon Center.

What is now a closet in which the room gets smaller as you go through it and holds a few weights along with a table, VCR and a TV was once the office for the strength and conditioning coaches. A table was set up at the entrance to the room and coaches could supervise the entire room in really only one way.

“I remember standing on a table to see across the room,” said Jen Clark, our tour guide and now an event manager at NIU.

Gymnastics actually has two rooms to work in, with one being a competition room that is in the process of undergoing improvements with the cube pit to be changed out at some point in the near future.

For a gymnastics competition at the Convocation Center, Clark said a crew of as many as 30 people will move equipment from Huskie Stadium. The floor itself is in 40 pieces and it takes a couple of hours to completely move and set up everything.

Although Huskie Stadium will remain largely the same for now, there are possibilities out there for renovations and improvement. Some ideas include moving the club boxes to the East side and renovating the press box.

Those ideas are way down the line right now, after a possible indoor practice facility, but, given the history of Huskie Stadium, change and new memories are never too far away.

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