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NIU to survey community for Convocation Center event ideas

DeKALB – Northern Illinois University officials think the Convocation Center isn’t hosting as many community events as it could, so they’re asking the public what they’d like to see there.

Sean Frazier, NIU’s associate vice president and director of athletics, said the university will create a survey once a new Convocation Center director is hired within a month. The new director will be the driving force behind the survey and in charge of a team that will solicit feedback, Frazier said.

He said the main focus of the survey will be what the community and student body would like to see in the 10,000-seat facility built in 2002 for $36 million. The data obtained will then be compiled and used to plan programming in the future.

While the Convocation Center is the home of NIU men’s and women’s basketball games, Frazier said it is underused for other events. In addition to athletic events, the space can host concerts, trade shows, graduations, family shows and other performances.

“We are fine intercollegiate athleticswise, but we are looking to have more college and community events,” Frazier said. “We want to bring shows and events the mirror the college and community. Once we do that, it will be a success.”

The survey also is part of NIU President Douglas Baker’s focus to engage the community and the university, said Director of Media and Public Relations Paul Palian.

“You want to have your facility used as much as possible,” Palian said. “So if you can provide alternate events other than athletic ones that benefit the whole community, it’s a win, win.”

A group made up of students, faculty and community members is already telling the university what kind of events it doesn’t want to see. A petition to stop the Circus Spectacular scheduled for March 4 has garnered nearly 2,700 signatures, and NIU’s Student Association Senate voted against the circus coming to the university.

Palian said the decision to solicit feedback was not spurred by the petition, but he anticipates people against the circus will respond to the survey.

Assistant anthropology professor Mitchell Irwin, who started the petition, said he’s happy to see NIU administration taking an interest in community feedback. He plans to voice his opinion once the survey is available.

“I think the sky’s the limit for the Convocation Center,” Irwin said. “There just has to be certain ethical standards in place.”

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