NIU Associate Vice-President and Director of Athletics Sean T. Frazier has a busy “in-box” and lately a lot of the questions have been about the recently announced Huskie Chi-Town Showdown game Nov. 9 between NIU and Toledo at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
Why is NIU moving its home game versus Toledo to U.S. Cellular Field for the Huskie Chi-Town Showdown?
There are a number of very compelling reasons.
- First, we are looking to engage our alumni base in Chicagoland. NIU has close to 145,000 living alumni in the region and we have heard from many fans who said, `you need to come back and play in Chicago.’
- Second, we want to increase attendance at one of the most important games of 2016; the Toledo game is always one of the biggest games on the schedule and we need more than 8-10,000 people in the stands.
- Third, it is critically important to make sure that we are generating revenue. The ability to have this game in front of fans in Chicago and the relationship with the ISFA and the White Sox will produce needed financial resources for our department and for our football program. The potential net for this game is four to five times what we have seen during a midweek game at Huskie Stadium. That is significant.
- Fourth – exposure. Nothing is better to get the NIU brand in the third largest media market in the country than Huskie Football.
Those are my top four reasons. Add the ability for our fans and our student-athletes to be in a world-class facility at U.S. Cellular Field, as well as the overall excitement of the Huskie Chi-Town Showdown as an event, and an opponent that has become our top rival. It’s a no-brainer.
Why did you choose Toledo and a MAC game for the Huskie Chi-Town Showdown?
We considered other games and dates, but focused on the midweek MACtion games specifically because we have seen a decline in attendance for those games at Huskie Stadium. We saw an opportunity to have one of our November midweek ESPN games played at a site that would generate more interest. We also heard from fans who attended the games at Soldier Field in Chicago, who wanted to see the Huskies back in Chicago. The later season games worked better for the stadium from the White Sox perspective in terms of the field preparation. The bottom line is, since I have been at NIU, the midweek November games have not been well-attended. We needed to spark some life into our November home schedule, and the Huskie Chi-Town Showdown was born.
How will NIU ensure that fans with season tickets and premium seats at Huskie Stadium receive equal or better seats and amenities?
Job one for us is to make this game seamless for our season ticket members, premium seat holders, donors and fans that come to Huskie Stadium. We want to make sure we replicate – and maybe even improve – their experience at U.S. Cellular Field. We’ve gone through great research and evaluation to be able to provide the kinds of experiences and extras that we have introduced at Huskie Stadium over the last few years. There is no question the amenities at U.S. Cellular Field are first class. All you have to do is check out the website to see that. Our staff has gone through these areas, and I’m confident our season ticket members and premium seating holders will be taken care of when it comes to the game experience.
I also want to point out that this game IS included in the 2016 season ticket, which was not the case with the Soldier Field games in the past. This game is a part of that price, which makes this year’s season ticket a helluva bargain. This is considered a home game, just in a different location. What we’re doing is not unique to NIU – teams from Notre Dame to Florida State to Northwestern, Boston College, UCF and Virginia Tech are moving home games to baseball stadiums, racetracks and other venues around the country and even around the world. Know that we will continue to promote the national brand that is NIU Football with games like the Huskie Chi-Town Showdown.
What are some of the initiatives involved outside of the game itself?
We will work with the White Sox and area non-profit organizations, as well as youth groups, to put on clinics, provide instruction and do outreach promoting Northern Illinois University, the Huskie Chi-Town Showdown and the game of football itself. There will be programs specifically aimed at reaching underprivileged youth and adults. I know the White Sox and the ISFA want to do that and will be very committed partners with us in these efforts. We also want to spread President Baker’s message and continue the emphasis on student career success, and we are talking to the White Sox and the ISFA about how we can make that an element of this event.
If NIU cannot attract fans to see a weeknight game at Huskie Stadium in November, why do you believe fans will come out to a weeknight game at U.S. Cellular Field in November?
This first football game ever played at U.S. Cellular Field is a historic event and I believe is something that people will not miss. Then you’ve got the ability for those nearly 145,000 Chicagoland alums – or at least a good portion of them – to see their Huskies in Chicago. Bringing the championship product to our alumni base entrenched in Chicagoland area will be motivation for folks to come and support NIU Football. One of the main issues with attendance in November at Huskie Stadium is that it’s midweek, and they can’t get to us, so we’re taking away that issue and providing a first-rate facility, first-rate amenities, a great product and a historic event.
Are you confident there won’t be any issues with the facility in terms of the layout of the field?
We have gone through painstaking research and evaluation in making sure we can play a traditional football game at U.S. Cellular Field. We have the proper radius, the proper clearance in the end zones and we will have the teams on opposite sidelines. We’re excited about the opportunity, and the ISFA and White Sox have been great partners in working with us on the field layout and measurements.