June 17, 2004
DeKalb — After a 12-month make over, the interior of the Chick Evans Field House is all but unrecognizable, even to former Huskie season ticket holders who sat through decades of basketball, volleyball and wrestling in the 47-year-old facility.
The familiar Quonset hut-shaped roof remains. Beyond that, however, little is the same. Gone are the massive wooden stands, the scoreboards, the cramped offices and the pieces of athletic equipment stored in every nook and cranny.
In their place is an airy, freshly painted athletic facility for students, faculty and staff. The building now features two multi purpose "rinks" suited for indoor soccer and floor hockey; two regulation size basketball courts; an indoor running track; a room filled with the latest in aerobic exercise equipment; and a large mirrored studio for dance, aerobics, marshal arts and other activities. It also boasts full locker room facilities.
The facility officially opened for business June 8 with a women's basketball camp.
"We're very excited to get this up and running," said Dave Lochbaum, facilities coordinator for the Office of Campus Recreation. "This will give us a lot more flexibility. It will ease the pressure on our main facility and allow us to offer more programming at better times."
For instance, Lochbaum said, the OCR can offer very little in the way of programming for indoor soccer and floor hockey because most of the existing courts are poorly suited to those sports. Those that are pressed into service require players to do things like ring part of the playing field with tables laid on their sides to keep balls in play. In the new Chick Evans facility, two courts are specially designed for soccer and hockey. Each is surrounded by plastic "boards" topped by the same type of safety glass found in professional hockey arenas, creating an ideal playing area.
Each of those courts has also been designed so that it can be easily and cheaply converted for use as a regulation-size basketball court. "That is important, because in terms of sheer numbers of players, basketball remains our sport of highest demand," Lochbaum said.
The two designated basketball courts can also be used for volleyball.
It was the long waits for courts, aerobic equipment and other facilities at the Student Recreation Center that made remodeling the Chick Evans Field House such an attractive option once the Convocation Center became a reality.
"Students today consider quality recreation facilities an important part of university life. With the addition of the remodeled Chick Evans Field House to our existing Student Recreation Center we now have some of the finest facilities in the country," said NIU President John Peters.
The most time consuming aspect of the $2.25 million remodeling job was removing and replacing the old floor. That required pulling up the old surface and laying a four-inch base of asphalt, over which was placed a synthetic rubber surface that provides excellent traction and cushioning. Despite the challenges posed by those tasks, the job proceeded smoothly and was completed on schedule.
In addition to providing expanded space for student recreation the building is also now home to the offices of the Army Reserve Officers Training Corps, offices for the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, and offices for Building Services. The facility includes two fully equipped smart classrooms.
Summer basketball and volleyball camps will be the first to test out the field house, which will open to students, faculty and staff in the fall. Tentative plans are to use the facility for ROTC, physical education and Huskie athletic teams during the morning and early afternoon hours, opening it to the entire campus community from about 4 until 10 p.m.
"The exact hours are still up in the air, we will see what the demand is and adjust accordingly," Lochbaum said, adding that the facility will provide some welcome relief.
"Over the course of the academic year, we get an average of 2,500 people a day using the Student Recreation Center, and that number can balloon up to about 3,000 a day during the winter months. Having this space available to us will give us much more flexibility to balance the needs of intramural leagues and the demands for open recreation during peak hours."
A grand re-opening for the facility will be held sometime in the fall.