NU Facility Upgrades Enter Next Stage

Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips has racked up quite a few frequent flyer miles lately. Phillips and athletics department staff members have been traveling the country touring facilities at other schools. Now, Northwestern is working to plan out their own facilities.

"We're still in the stage of putting it together," Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips said. "Once we have it together by the end of the summer, then we have to put it forward by President Shapiro, Chairman Osborn and the entire board of trustees."

Phillips and staff members visited more than 30 schools over the past month to get ideas for their own facilities in Evanston.

The only thing that remains clear is that football will be a major priority. Phillips admitted football is "the engine of (the athletics department)" and must be invested in with these upgrades. Now, a major question remains unanswered.

"Is it Sunday through Friday (practice facilities) or is it Saturday (a football stadium) that needs to go ahead of the other," Phillips questioned.

With that, Northwestern will have some decisions to make. Phillips said there is a possibility of tearing down current facilities and building new ones, but said it's still too soon to get specific.

However, one major problem that stands in Northwestern's way—both literally and figuratively—is a lack of space. Unlike a majority of the schools Phillips visited, NU has their athletics facilities nestled in a neighborhood area outside of downtown Evanston. Phillips admitted, Northwestern has a jigsaw puzzle to solve.

"I was just in Columbus last Wednesday, I was in South Bend last Wednesday, I was in Louisville, Kentucky, I was in Bloomington, Indiana—they don't have space issues," Phillips said. "We have serious space issues."

Phillips, whose official title is Director of Athletics and Recreation, said it's imperative to encompass all 19 sports as well as rebuilding recreational facilities around Northwestern's Evanston and Chicago campuses.

"This has the chance to impact and affect every student, every faculty member, every staff member and obviously every student-athlete that comes to Northwestern," Phillips said. "That's pretty enormous."

Northwestern has now completed the touring process and is starting up the planning process. Phillips said surveys from fans and season ticket holders will be used as a reference in the development. Once a plan is in place, the next steps will be taken.

"It's got to go to the president and the board sometime in the fall for approval, whether it's a small project or large project," Phillips said.

Other notes

There is plenty of speculation surround Jim Phillips and the vacant position of Illinois Athletic Director. This past weekend, the Chicago Tribune reported talks between Phillips and NU were taking place. When asked about a potential deal, Phillips said, "I promise I would not comment on it at this particular time."

During the Q&A session with fans, Jim Phillips was asked about football game start times. Phillips said they hope to completely avoid 11:00 a.m. start times for football games. "Any chance we can get to move off 11:00, we're all for."

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