DeKALB – When Sean Frazier arrived at Northern Illinois and walked through the halls of Huskie Stadium, one thing was clear to the first-year NIU athletic director.
The stadium, which opened in 1965, needed some upgrades. Frazier felt it was a good college football facility, but parts of it were just past their prime.
“It’s a dated building, but it has great bones. It has great character. I like the way it sets itself up for college football,” Frazier said. “It’s got that small stadium, big college feel. As a facilities guy, I like that.
“But we’ve got to deal with premium seating issues, which we have very few of. And we have to deal with those amenities, the concessions and restrooms.”
Frazier hopes to complete his “Facilities Master Plan” over the summer and said that after it’s finished, the next big facilities project at NIU will take shape.
In terms of Huskie Stadium, there are already some changes to the building and gameday atmosphere that will take place this upcoming season. There’s the new Coaches Club – which will be located inside the grandstand on the west side of Huskie Stadium where the old coaches offices were before the construction of the Yordon Center.
Fans will not have a view of the action, but the club will feature flat-screen TVs with a live feed of the contest, plus a cash bar and expanded food buffet are included. Season passes to the club will require a $650 donation to the Huskie Athletic Fund in addition to a season ticket.
One of the aspects about Huskie Stadium which stood out to Frazier early was the need for more restrooms and upgraded concession areas. It’s something he hopes will be upgraded in the near future.
“I walked through [the old offices] and I said ‘you know what, this would be a great place to put some extra bathrooms and possibly a place to enhance the experience, ‘ “ Frazier said of the Coaches Club. “So one way was to just gut it and do some things and make bathrooms and the other thing was to say, let’s make it a premium area.”
Another new feature at Huskie Stadium for the entire 2014 home schedule will be “The Yard” – a large tailgate area on the west lawn ran by NIU which will feature live music, a beer garden, food vendors and a kid’s zone. It will be situated just west of reserved parking on the west lawn and be open both before and after games.
“I’m big with the gameday experience. I hear a lot with the alumni and the patrons about creating the game experience for tailgating,” Frazier said. “A lot of folks have their tents and we want to continue that on the west side. We want to make sure we continue the experience of having your own areas, but we also want to make this the college down concept.”
NIU opens the 2014 season Thursday, Aug. 28 against FCS Presbyterian at Huskie Stadium. The Huskies will have five home games this season.
The Huskies have hosted just one BCS team since 2003 – Kansas in 2012. Frazier said that in order to get those types of programs in DeKalb, the necessary upgrades to Huskie Stadium need to be made.
“Having a 24,000-seat arena, only having the ability to give 2-3,000 seats to a BCS team coming in is not going to get it done for us,” Frazier said. “It doesn’t work that way. Not only do they have the fear factor of getting their butt beat by us, we’re also only going to give them only 2-3,000 seats on top of it.
“That just doesn’t work. It’s not the real world. People don’t know scheduling if they think that that’s going to happen. I think for me, is that I’m a very aggressive scheduler, and we’re going to put ourselves in a situation to be competitive every year, but our infrastructure also has to get better.”