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NIU unveils plans for Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center

October 15, 2011

Less than one month after the announcement that Northern Illinois University benefactors Dr. Kenneth and Ellen Chessick will donate $3 million to the University to name the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center, the new indoor training facility for Huskie Athletics, NIU President Dr. John Peters and Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher announced the project’s official launch and campaign details.

Saturday prior to Northern Illinois’ 105th Homecoming football game Peters, Compher, NIU Vice-President for University Advancement Mike Malone and Dr. and Mrs. Chessick were joined by several of the 17 leadership donors for Saturday’s official campaign announcement. Leadership donors have each committed at least $100,000 to the Chessick Practice Center and the total from the leadership group, which includes the Chessicks, stands at $7.6 million. The current projected cost of the building, which will be located on the north side of the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center, is $9.5 million.

Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center. Image courtesy HKM Architects + Planners, Inc.

The Keneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center will benefit all Huskie athletes.

The 83,500 square foot facility will house a full-size, 120-yard artificial surface football practice field with buffer space surrounding the field on all sides. It will stand 65-feet tall in the center and 45-feet at the sidelines. Preliminary plans feature a four-lane track, batting cages and a retractable center net, allowing multi-sport use throughout the winter months. Other planned features include a long jump pit, storage cages, field goal nets and a play-clock system.

Architectural renderings, reactions from Huskie athletes and coaches and information about fundraising opportunities can be found on the official project website.  

Peters said he is excited to formally launch the fundraising campaign for a project that has been discussed for many years.

“This practice center has been planned as part of a north end zone sports complex for almost 10 years,” Peters said. “I could feel the momentum building as we stood in the snow of Boise last year after winning the Humanitarian Bowl. Since Ken and Ellen Chessick stepped forward with the naming gift, the pieces have started to fall into place. Our leadership donors have given us a great start to the campaign, and I am excited to see the project move forward.”

The leadership donor group includes familiar names. Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon, who will provide $1.15 million to name the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Huskie Pride Plaza, the main entrance to the Chessick Practice Center on the east side of the building. Dennis and Stacey Barsema’s $1 million gift will name the “Hall of Champions” area connecting the Yordon and Chessick centers.

The list of leadership donors recognized Saturday (does not include anonymous donors):

 Kenneth and Ellen ChessickJeffrey and Kimberly Yordon
 Dennis and Stacey Barsema Jerry and Jinny Andres
 Gary and Gloria Baumgartner Bill and Priscilla Boston and The Kirch Foundation
 Castle Bank Jeff and Doreen Eckmann
 Stephen W. Kalber The National Bank and Trust Company
 David and Linda Nelson David and Lyn Rasmussen
 Doug and Lynn Roberts Jerry and Laurie Steinborn
 Chet and Teresa Young Midwest Orthopaedic Institute, Offi cial Team Physicians

As the Chessick Practice Center project enters the next phase in its development, Compher thanked the leadership donors on behalf of Northern Illinois student-athletes and coaches.

“There is no doubt the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center will become another cornerstone facility for Huskie Athletics,” Compher said. “Like the Yordon Center, it will benefi t every student-athlete in each of our 17 sports programs as they strive to bring championships to Northern Illinois University.

Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center - Huskie Pride Plaza. Image courtesy HKM Architects + Planners, Inc.

The Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Huskie Pride Plaza will be the main entrance to the new practice facility.

“The response from the leadership donors who have committed to the building so far has been amazing and we cannot thank them enough. There is still a lot of work to be done, and there will be an opportunity for donors and fans at all levels to join us to make the Chessick Practice Center a reality. I cannot overstate the excitement that has rippled throughout our department over the last several weeks as we have prepared for today’s announcement.”

Malone noted that the Chessick Practice Center will be the fourth privately-funded building to be constructed at NIU in the last decade, and is the first building campaign that has attracted three gifts of $1 million or more.

“The tremendous support this project has already received speaks to the breadth and depth of the commitment of our alumni and friends to NIU and their belief in a bright future for the Huskies and the University,” Malone said.

“In football terms, these leadership donors have gotten the ball to the 20-yard line; we are in the red zone. From this point, it will take all of our fans, former student-athletes, and alumni to drive in for the final score.”

With 80 percent of the projected cost of the 82,000-plus square foot facility already secured thanks to the generosity of the leadership donors, Compher said the fundraising campaign next will enter the “major gift” phase, targeting donors at the $25,000 and above level. When that phase is near completion later this year, Northern Illinois will open a “Brick and Paver” walkway effort which will invite fans and supporters at several levels to contribute to making the Chessick Practice Center a reality.

Kenneth and Ellen Chessick, whose long legacy of philanthropy toward Northern Illinois University was extended to intercollegiate athletics with the Sept. 17 announcement of their $3 million naming gift for the Kenneth and Ellen Chessick Practice Center, were thrilled that their initial commitment has spurred so many to come forward in support of the building.

“We are so happy that these generous donors have stepped up so quickly and share our passion for this project,” the Chessicks said. “We firmly believe that education is the gateway to a full and satisfying life and that a successful collegiate athletic program does more to enrich the experience of the student than any other single factor. We want to give NIU’s dedicated student-athletes every tool to become the best they can be. We are confident that their future performances will bring Northern Illinois students, alumni and faculty, as well as the community, together in a way that will benefit many generations of Huskies moving forward.”

As with the three previous privately-financed building at NIU (Barsema Hall, Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, and the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center) the NIU Foundation will serve as the developer of the project, working closely with the university’s Division of Finance and Facilities.

The projected timeline for the fundraising campaign, a detailed construction plan and complete architectural drawings for the Chessick Practice Center are under development. Fans can get the latest updates on the project, see renderings of the inside and outside of the CPC, watch videos, read quotes and more online at In addition, you can like the project on Facebook  and follow updates on Twitter @ChessickCenter.