Northern Illinois University administrators, coaches, student-athletes and fans honored leadership donors to the Chessick Practice Center (CPC) Saturday during the official groundbreaking ceremony for the facility.
The groundbreaking was held at the site of the multi-sport indoor practice facility, which will be built to the north of the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center adjacent to Huskie Stadium and in close proximity to the NIU Tennis Courts, baseball’s Ralph McKinzie Field and Mary M. Bell Softball Field.
NIU President John Peters, Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher, NIU head football coach Dave Doeren and Vice-President for University Advancement Michael Malone spoke at Saturday’s groundbreaking ceremony, which took place prior to the Huskie football team’s annual Spring Game.
“What a great day for Huskie Athletics and for all NIU student-athletes, present and future,” Peters said.
“I’m proud of NIU and I’m proud of our alumni, our faculty and this team of professionals who helped make this dream a reality. Most of all, I’m proud of our students. This project has always been about students, giving them every opportunity to compete and to win at the highest level of intercollegiate sports and Division I while we’re taking care of their physical and academic well-being and so today, this is another Huskie history moment.”
Peters, Compher, Doeren, representatives from the Board of Trustees and leadership donors Dr. Kenneth and Ellen Chessick and Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon placed a ceremonial shovel in the ground in front of the backdrop of a bulldozer and renderings of the CPC.
Northern Illinois has received cash and commitments of $8.7 million of the $9.5 million needed to build the Dr. Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center. The Chessicks announced the naming gift of $3 million toward the project in September 2011 and Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon and Dennis and Stacey Barsema stepped up with gifts of $1 million or more.
Those gifts have made the Chessick Center the first privately funded university project to secure three commitments of $1 million or more.
During the ceremony, Peters and Compher provided the most specific information to date regarding the construction schedule for the CPC, which will be used by all Huskie teams. Over the past several months, the NIU Foundation and the Office of Capital Budget and Planning has worked with CPC lead architects HKM and contractor Turner Construction on design development as well as construction documents necessary before the project can begin.
Actual construction is slated to begin this summer, and while progress throughout the construction process will determine the official opening date, NIU expects to be able to practice in the Chessick Practice Center beginning in Fall 2013. Compher said the Chessick Center will only add to the success of NIU Athletics; the Huskies claimed three Mid-American Conference Championships in 2011-12.
“We will make the Chessick Center one of the finest facilities of its kind in the country,” Compher said. “The Chessick Center will not only maintain our success it will put us in high gear and help accelerate the momentum we have gained. The CPC clearly demonstrates our continued commitment to our student-athletes and their success. This facility will have a huge impact on every student-athlete and every team. To be able to practice and prepare on a year-round basis is essential for any team’s continued development.”
With the fantastic response during the leadership and major gift phases of the CPC fundraising campaign, NIU is moving into the special giving phase which targets multi-year pledge commitments of $2,500 and greater. Over the summer, the Huskies will launch a brick and paver campaign for gifts starting at the $200 level. The brick and paver campaign will provide an opportunity for fans, donors and members of the general public to have a personally engraved brick in the Yordon Pride Plaza at the east entrance of the facility.
Doeren thanked the donors and talked about the impact that the facility will have on Huskie student-athletes and coaches.
“On behalf of the 17 sports and all the head coaches, I wanted to say thank you to everyone on stage, everybody that has given and everybody we’re going to ask to give,” Doeren said. “[Being out here] puts everything in perspective when you see how big this facility is going to be. Everyone thinks we just need it to practice in and while that’s true, it’s way more than that. If you want to be good every year, you have to be able to develop your players the way you want every day. I can’t wait. Next August is the date and I’m marking it off on my calendar. I can’t tell you how excited we are to have that facility on board and to break ground.”
Saturday’s event attracted several hundred people to the site of the future Chessick Practice Center.
A football field was lined out in the area. In addition to hearing from Peters, Compher, the leadership donors stuck shovels into the ground and posed for pictures. They received a warm round of applause from the crowd, which included the Huskie football team and student-athletes from nearly every sport.