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DeKalb, NIU make plans for IHSA football championships' arrival

Volunteer opportunities, sponsorships available for fall event

Construction workers are seen performing duct work Friday inside the new Chessick Practice Center on the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb.
Construction workers are seen performing duct work Friday inside the new Chessick Practice Center on the Northern Illinois University campus in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Planning is underway for DeKalb to host the Illinois High School Association state football championships for the first time in November.

The two-day championship series is expected to draw in at least 30,000 fans and have a $1 million economic impact on the county, said Tom Matya, the chairman of the IHSA host committee and DeKalb School District 428 board president.

To be ready, Matya and others are looking to raise $225,000 and sign up more than 200 volunteers.

“I think we’re off to a great start,” Northern Illinois University spokesman Brad Hoey said. “Everything is going to benefit from us having it this year.”

In 2012, the IHSA named NIU the host of its football championship series every odd-numbered year until 2021. NIU facilities, including its 24,000-seat Huskie Stadium and brand-new Chessick Practice Center, played a big role in securing the hosting rights.

The state football championship series consists of eight games among 16 high school teams. The games will be held Nov. 29 and 30 at Huskie Stadium.

Officials with the IHSA Destination DeKalb Host Committee are projecting the event will cost $225,000, which they hope to minimize through volunteers.

“We’re going to do the heavy push this fall – this far out, it’s hard to get people to commit that time,” Matya said.

The volunteers will be working as ushers, parking lot attendants and ticket-takers, among other positions. They will receive training by working at one of the NIU football games before the championships.

NIU already has hosted regional athletic competitions, Hoey said. In addition, NIU is the site of the Castle Challenge – a volunteer-run fundraising event held during the DeKalb-Sycamore football and baseball games.

“I think we’ve got a good plan and a good template,” Hoey said. “I think we’ll have no problem hitting our goal of getting at least 200 volunteers.”

Matya said they have secured at least 22 percent of the funding for the event, in the form of $25,000 grants from the city of DeKalb and KishHealth System.

“We’ve had very good reception, with sponsorships in community and business sponsorships outside DeKalb,” Matya said.

Both Matya and Debbie Armstrong, the executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, expressed confidence about being able to cover the full cost of the event.

“We’re not going to look at it with that attitude,” Armstrong said. “We’re going to raise the money for this event to be successful.”

PHOTOS: Chessick Practice Center construction
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