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Window portraits celebrate NIU athletics, relationship with DeKalb

DeKALB – Huskie football fever is set to go long, rushing from the confines of its Northern University stadium to storefront windows of downtown DeKalb.

Officials from the city of DeKalb and Northern Illinois University unveiled three of a series of window displays Thursday. The Downtown Window Clings Display Initiative will highlight the team’s prowess and tell the story of the Huskie Stadium’s humble beginnings.

It marked the start of the third year of the NIU history-in-pictures on display at local businesses, billed as a collaboration that promotes the relationship between the city and the university.

“We’re trying to bridge the university and the community,” NIU President Doug Baker said. “We’re inextricably intertwined, and this is just a great example of coming together to promote the community and NIU together.”

Each of the window clings this year will commemorate the history of the university’s Huskie Stadium, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Baker called the stadium an “amazing engine for athletics.”

For the first time since they’ve gone up, this year’s images will be accompanied by a written description. 

A total of 22 full-size clings, bearing portraits of NIU players and coaches, will hang in windows at 16 downtown businesses. They will be on display at shops and restaurants located between First and Fourth streets along Lincoln Highway, and in the municipal building and police headquarters. Community events and members will also be featured.

The university and its athletics department split the $10,000 cost of the Downtown Window Cling Initiative. No funds came from the city of DeKalb, NIU officials said. The clings will be displayed through the end of NIU’s football season, which officials hope will be after a bowl game victory, some time in January.

The images unveiled Thursday include ones of Huskies defensive end and MVP Larry English, drafted in 2009 by the San Diego Chargers, wide receiver John Spilis, drafted in 1969 by the Green Bay Packers, and Don Schoo. The 90-year-old is a World War II veteran, former DeKalb police officer and NIU employee, who was last year’s honorary captain at the Huskies’ homecoming game.

Mayor John Rey said the initiative “reinforces the partnership that the university represents with the city.”  

“It’s exciting to see the expression of that partnership, certainly in our downtown business area for businesses and residents, alike, to see the celebratory atmosphere that these window clings represent,” said Rey, who received an MBA from NIU.

Schoo’s cling hangs in the window of the Lincoln Inn restaurant. The Spilis and English images hang a few doors away in the window of Chilton’s Sporting Goods – a DeKalb mainstay that opened in1947. The lifelong Dekalb residents, brothers and co-owners of the store said that participating in the initiative is just part of the pride they have for their town. 

“We’re just DeKalb people,” said 63-year-old Stacey Chilton. He and his brother, Kirby, 59, were at the unveiling. The two of them and another brother are NIU alums.

Huskie Stadium opened in November 1965. The facility has undergone redesigns and renovations, but NIU Athletics Director Sean Frazier points out that more work needs to be done “to bring it up to code.”

Last month the stadium’s Brigham Field makeover was completed. The $360,000 project improved field markings and other elements. The team will play on the new turf for the first time at its Sept. 5 home game against UNLV.

In the stadium’s inaugural year, the ‘65 Huskies went undefeated in the regular season. It was a record that went unbroken for 48 years.

According to the university’s website, NIU will host its 109th homecoming game at the stadium. The event is the oldest one in Illinois, and one of the oldest in the country. 

“Huskies Stadium is iconic: So much tradition, so much fanfare, so important to our community,” Frazier said. “It is a true college football stadium. It gives us true home field advantage.” 

Construction of the stadium, the first game in the facility and the heralded first team to play in it will be pictured soon in a four-window time line as part of the Downtown Window Cling Initiative. It will will hang in the window of a building at Lincoln Highway and First Street.

“We have a steep, rich, powerful tradition on college athletics, academics, social activity. And these window clings remind us … that we have that,” said Frazier. “It gives you a little bit of a time capsule so you can know what’s going on.”

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