Huskie Stadium opened in 1965 and used to seat over 30,000, but capacity has been decreased to 23,595 due to recent renovations, most notably the addition of the Yordon Athletic Center which opened in 2007. Currently, there are only grandstands along the east (student section) and west (alumni section) sidelines, but not much in the end zones – the south end zone is grass and only has a small amount of standing room and tent space behind the fence. The YAC takes up most of the north end zone, and includes locker rooms, a strength and conditioning facility, rehab pools, coaches’ offices, and even computer classrooms for student athletes – the center cost $14MM, and even features a couple of boxes that overlook the field. NIU plans to increase capacity by creating a horseshoe on the south side, and if they can get back over 30K, they would be the biggest stadium in the MAC.
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The concessions at Huskie Stadium completely fail to impress - only 13 options are offered from a main stand and two smaller stands on each side, half of which are inedible. The main stand offers pizza, burgers, hot dogs, Polish sausage, hot pretzels, nachos, chips, candy, peanuts, soda (Pepsi products), hot chocolate, and bottled water for $2 to $5.25 per item. The smaller stands each have some of those same items, and one of them adds Dippin' Dots. The packaged items like candy and chips are fine, but the prepared items are stale, almost as if they were made several hours before kickoff, and the fountain soda is practically undrinkable - it is over-carbonated and/or severely watered down. I would definitely eat before you come, but if you need a drink, the smaller stands at least have soda in bottles. Also, make sure you bring cash - the signs say they take cards, but they actually don't.
Unlike the concessions, the atmosphere at Huskie Stadium is pretty awesome. The staff plays fun, high-tempo, recognizable music during nearly every break in the action, so the fans are dancing for most of the game. The stadium is also literally drenched in school spirit - there are Huskie flags, statues, banners, and signage everywhere you look. Many stadiums might display flags showing the other schools in the conference - not so here, where they only show Huskie paraphernalia, including a Huskie statue in front of the YAC, a Huskie painted on the grass in the south end zone, myriad Huskie flags, especially in the north end zone, and even an NIU logo on the water tower, which you can see from the field. You cannot fail to get into the Huskie spirit. See some of the décor here:
Besides the Huskie flair and dancing, you will also be treated to multiple fireworks displays (pre-game, after every Huskies score, and after a win), as well as the Huskie mascot, Mission, a live Siberian Huskie, running across the end zone dragging his ROTC handler after every Huskie score. You will also see a second mascot, Victor E. Huskie (get it? victory?), a person in costume, helping to rev up the crowd during the game.
There are no assigned seats on the east side (student side, sections I-Q), but those tickets cost about half as much. There isn't much reason to pay extra for the west side, though, because most of the seats on both sides are metal bleachers. There is a small section on the west side (the first 20-25 rows of section D, part of C, and part of E) that have chair backs or chair rails, but these require a donation to the school and are generally reserved for season ticket holders. On the plus side, both grandstands are very close to the field - in fact, the cheer squad actually performs in the north end zone, because there isn't enough room for them in front of the east or west stands.
There isn't much in DeKalb, IL besides NIU, but there are some good restaurants that make for a good pre or postgame hangout.
Since it is a college town, pizza parlors and fast food joints abound, but there are a few nice sports bars near campus. The official spot to hang out before or after football games is Fatty's Pub and Grille on Lincoln Highway (southeast of the stadium) - great atmosphere, good food, and home of the coach's show, and the like. The only problem is that this gets a little crowded, so you might try Molly's Eatery and Drinkery instead, which is also on Lincoln. However, if you are willing to hit the next town over, Ski's All American Pub in Sycamore is a fabulous little place that has great pizza, cheap drinks, almost free pizza dough bites ($2.25 for a half order, which could easily feed 4-5), fun country music, space for dancing, and plenty of screens to watch games or highlights from the day - Ski's is about seven miles from the stadium.
The most interesting attractions in DeKalb are the multi-colored Huskie statues all over town. These statues are commissioned by local businesses, and painted by different artists, and can be found on campus, on random streets, and even inside the local Walmart - it would be a fun scavenger hunt to run around and try to find as many as you can.
There are several hotels near campus on Lincoln Highway that are within walking distance of the stadium. Depending on how early you book, though, it might be easier to find space over in Sycamore.
Attendance at Huskies games varies by the month - in September, the stadium might be three-quarters full, but will dwindle to about half-full once snow starts hitting the ground in November.
The fans are loyal and loud, especially on the student side - they tend to stand the whole time, which could be annoying for some. They stay engaged throughout the game, and enjoy yelling at the refs, the music, and cheering for their team, in that order. The fans on the alumni side are a bit less intense, but still solid.
Huskie Stadium is ridiculously easy to get to - there is no traffic to speak of, and the crowd is small enough that you can get there 20 minutes ahead of time and still make kickoff with time to spare.
Parking is much easier on the student side, since most of the students walk - you can park for free a few blocks away (to the east) on Stadium Drive near the university bookstores. Getting closer requires a parking pass, and a lot of the alums actually park pretty far away at the Convocation Center west of the stadium. After the game, traffic can be pretty hairy on Lincoln headed from the Convocation Center toward downtown as they all try to get out of there, but going the other direction is smooth sailing.
The entrances are totally separate on the east and west sides, and there is no easy way to go between them once you get in. But moving around inside is very easy, there are lots of ramps and staircases going up to the seats, and the bathrooms are huge - there are plenty of stalls and urinals, and the sinks are actually the big round communal version with lots of faucets. The only weird thing is that the paper towel dispensers are all on the far wall, so you have to walk a few paces with wet hands.
The stadium and surrounding area are very accessible - the crosswalks actually have talking speakers to tell you which street is open to cross, and the scoreboard inside the stadium has subtitles displaying the announcer's words. Also, there are ramps that go up to the seats on each end of each grandstand.
On the east side, tickets cost $28, including fees (sold on the school website via Ticketmaster); on the west they are $45. Personally, I think the student side is more fun, but if you don't like the noise or don't want to stand the whole time, you can try the other side. Remember though, that it is likely bleachers either way, unless you bring your own seat back. The food is overpriced for the quality, but parking is free.
One point for the huskie statues all over town; it was a lot of fun pointing them out to each other as we drove to and from the stadium.
A second point for the great music they play - almost every song is well-known, and the fans really spend a lot of time dancing, stomping, and clapping.
A third point for the fireworks - I know a lot of teams do this, but here at Huskie Stadium, they shoot them off from multiple locations atop the stadium, and you can really feel the bang since the seats are so close to the action.
A fourth point for the north end zone - the YAC is impressive on its own, but the addition of the half-circle of flags and the Huskie standing guard makes for a stunning display.
A fifth point for the water tower and all the other Huskie décor around the stadium.
Huskie Stadium is not the biggest stadium in the world, but it is a ton of fun to watch a game here, thanks to the great fans and the cool things the staff does to add excitement. Seeing an NIU football game is well worth the trip to DeKalb, and if they can address the concessions issues, the experience would be even better.
Northern Illinois University, and the town of Dekalb, Illinois are surrounded by cornfields. Huskie Stadium rises out of the flat land, beckoning you to watch some college football. Huskie Stadium is a mix of old and new. The field itself, known as Brigham Field (named for former player, coach, and athletic director Robert Brigham) is made of field turf, installed in 2009. Beyond the north end zone, you'll find the Yordon Center, the new academic and athletic center, built at a cost of $14 million in 2007.
Huskie Stadium opened in 1965 and the stands are in a great need of a makeover. The upside is that the bleachers in sections 10 and 13, through row 37 have backs, which makes sitting in your seat at least twice as comfortable. The sound system originating from the south end zone also needs an upgrade in the near future.
This was a comfortable, inexpensive, but stale opportunity to see division 1 football. It was very similar to the experience you may have at a division 2 or 3 school. Just a step up in class from a large high school stadium.
I went to NIU in the late nineties, when the football team had the nation'a longest losing street at 19 games. The stands were nearly empty, and there was no buzz at all. Fast forward to now, when the team is always competitive and in bowl games...ad the stadium still has the same problems. There is the most limited amount of food in a major stadium that I have ever been in, and the concourse in the visiting side still has super slim ramps that make it hard to get out or in with a crowd. That being said, plenty of bathrooms are around. The fans are awesome, and the student section and marching band cheer, play, and sing the entire time. The band's enthusiasm is infectious...sit near them for a good time. For souvenirs, skip the stadium stuff and walk about a half mile east to the Village Commons bookstore, a huge place specializing in all things Huskie, with size and inventory rivaling any major college. There are bars sort of near the stadium, but they are not family friendly. Stick with the tailgating, which is a great time at NIU. It would be nice if now that the Huskies have had extended success, they could spend a little more on a quality stadium.
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