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Sports

Northern Illinois a step away from building facility

Northern Illinois announced on Saturday it will be building a $9.5 million Academic and Athletic Performance Center to enhance both aspects of the student-athlete experience at the university. This rendition of the building shows how the back of the building will look, leaving space for a potential indoor practice facility. Architect rendering courtesy of HKM Architects & Planners, Inc.
Northern Illinois announced on Saturday it will be building a $9.5 million Academic and Athletic Performance Center to enhance both aspects of the student-athlete experience at the university. This rendition of the building shows how the back of the building will look, leaving space for a potential indoor practice facility. Architect rendering courtesy of HKM Architects & Planners, Inc.

DeKALB - The date may have been April 23, but fans of the Northern Illinois football program partied like it was New Year's Eve. A dream nearly 10 years in the making finally came to fruition as first-year Athletics Director Jim Phillips made the public announcement of the $9.5 million Northern Illinois University Academic and Athletic Performance Center, which is planned to be placed adjacent to the north end zone. Fans celebrated as the 14 leadership donors were introduced amid streamers that fell like Friday's rain. A 10-minute video highlighted the entire facility and labeled the upcoming project "A Legacy in the Making." "This is an everyday, all-day facility to suit the needs of the student-athletes," said Phillips. "We went to the source and wanted them to dictate what they wanted. In the end, it's about providing resources for all 426 student athletes. That takes support, and they are going to get better by the amount of support we give them. We want this to be the jewel in athletics, academics and training in the MAC." The timing of the announcement came after the university received $5 million in private funding. The funding now goes public and needs to get to a $7 million goal to break dirt on the new facility. However, another surprise was in store on Saturday. "I hate to do this, especially with my boss, but I need to correct President (John) Peters," said NIU football coach Joe Novak. "You said that we had $5 million and needed two more but I want to correct that. We now have $5.1 and we only need $1.9 million. We are getting close. Now its up to everyone out there to help get this done." When the $7 million campaign goal is reached, NIU will begin breaking ground for the new all-purpose facility. NIU President John Peters said he hopes to have groundbreaking in a matter of months. Peters also said that building the center should take 12 to 14 months and that costs will not go over $9.5 million. The 60,000-square-foot facility will help enhance not only the football program but all 17 athletic squads. The multi-story, state-of-the-art NIU Academic and Athletic Performance Center will help boast all 426 student-athletes in not only their respective sport, but in school as well. According to the updated floor plan, the building will be positioned on a three-foot grass berm and located adjacent to the north end zone of Huskie Stadium. The building will be connected by a hallway to the West Grandstand infrastructure and the centerpiece of the main floor will be the Academic Support Center, which features a fully equipped technology lab with Internet access. The Academic Support Center will have four areas for private study, group study, one-on-one tutoring and guest lectures, plus additional office space for Student-Athlete Support Services personnel. "When prospective student-athletes and their parents tour our new facilities, the Academic Support Center will make an awesome first impression," Phillips said. "It will clearly emphasize our programmatic and institutional obligation to the 'student' in the phrase 'student-athlete.'" The strength and conditioning center, which will be located on the east end of the building, will encompass 14,000 square feet - almost triple the size of the 14-year-old Hall of Fame Speed and Strength Complex in Huskie Stadium. The new center will be fully equipped with the most advanced cardiovascular equipment, machines and free weights. A four-lane, 40-yard track will be included to aid training efficiency. The west end will feature the Athletic Training Room and Equipment Room. The area is exclusive for rehabilitation, injury prevention, hydrotherapy and taping. Also located on the main floor, the Football Locker Room has easy access to both the training and equipment rooms, in addition to a centralized meeting area for pre-game and half-time pep talks, plus a bronze Huskie dog statue in the tunnel en route to the Brigham Field playing surface. "It's going to mean so much to our program, to all the programs here at Northern Illinois," said Novak. "It's going to be important for student-athletes who will commit to this university to have a great facility to work academically and athletically. They deserve it." Once that is finished, Phillips said the next phase could be building indoor practice facility adjacent to the center. The Huskies had to practice at the DeKalb Park District Rec Center in preparation for their 34-21 victory over Troy in the Silicon Valley Football Classic. "The next phase is to get to that $7 million mark," Phillips said. "We are almost there. But after that then yes, we do have to look at what's next and that could be an indoor practice facility. We have designed this facility so that we could put an indoor facility right behind it. That was part of our thinking all along." Peters agreed. "One step at a time," he said. "We do have dreams. When we do add the Academic and Athletic Performance Center, that will be the next step. We have a dream of an indoor practice facility in proximity to the new center. At that point, we will have arguably some of the best facilities in the Midwest."

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