Since 1999 the championships have been played in Champaign at the University of Illinois. But a scheduling conflict with the Illini’s expanded Big Ten schedule meant the games had to move elsewhere in odd numbered years. The folks in Dekalb swooped and won over IHSA officials in a bidding process.
"First of all it’s the atmosphere created by their steering comittee. The folks at NIU have been incredibly gracious and supportive," says IHSA Associate Executive Director Kurt Gibson."
One of NIU’s selling points is location. DeKalb is only a short drive from the Chicago suburbs and other populated areas.
"We hope that the proximity to Huskie Stadium and NIU to the suburban Chicago area and Chicagoland area is going to increase the number of fans that come out," says Gibson.
Typically 75 percent of the teams that play in the championship games are from North of I-80.
"The thing that puts us over the top is we had signatures from 120 athletic directors from Northern Illinois that said they wanted it here at Huskie Stadium," says Tom Matya the Host Committee Chairman. "I think that’s the main reason is for the accommodation of the fans."
NIU’s recent facility upgrades also caught the eye of the IHSA. Like the Yorden Center complex on the North Endzone, and the new indoor practice center that’s connected to it. While one championship game is going on, teams waiting to play in the next game can be warming up in the center.
"I think it had a lot of appeal for the IHSA," says Matya.
Typically 30 to 32 thousand fans turn out for championship weekend. That means money for the local economy.
"From estimates we’ve heard from other hosts in Champaign-Urbana that goes from anywhere from 800 thousand to one million dollars for the weekend. That’s a fabulous way to start out the holiday season that’s for sure," says Debbie Armstrong of the DeKalb County Convention & Visitors Bureau. "And the visibility is invaluable. Bringing people into our area to see all that there is to do."
"The cooperation with the university and the people in the county it’s been great. We’ve just excited for the event," says Matya.
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