DeKALB – Although Brad Hoey is looking forward to Thanksgiving, he’s looking forward to the two days after the holiday even more.
The IHSA football state championships will take place Friday and Saturday, and this year, they will be held at Northern Illinois University’s Huskie Stadium in DeKalb. Ticket prices are $15 each and can be purchased online or at the gate. Parking is free in NIU’s Convocation Center parking lot.
“The IHSA state football championships are something we work on and look forward to for months, and we are very, very excited to have the championships back in DeKalb County this year,” said Hoey, the special projects manager for the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
This year marks the fifth time NIU and DeKalb County will host the state’s high school football championship games. The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana hosts the event on even years.
“Champaign-Urbana will host the championship in 2022 to make up for the year they lost hosting due to the pandemic, and hosting the championships will likely go out for bid again,” Hoey said. “Folks here are very interested in keeping it in DeKalb County for years to come.”
The football state championships attract about 25,000 visitors to DeKalb County and contribute between $800,000 and $1 million to the local economy during the state championship weekend.
Cortney Strohacker, the executive director for the DCCVB, described the weekend’s economic impact to be similar to that of other multiple-day events in DeKalb County, including DeKalb Corn Fest, Sycamore Pumpkin Festival and the Sandwich Fair.
“The championships are great for local tourism because athletes and their fans are stopping into restaurants, shops, gas stations and hotels,” she said. “It’s great just for the tourism aspect, bringing people in, but it’s also a nice time to show off our county, DeKalb and NIU.”
Hoey said that the weekend also is a great opportunity to expose students to NIU.
“Every single athlete is a prospective NIU student, as well as their fans,” he said. “It’s a great recruiting opportunity for the university. What better way to showcase all that NIU has to offer like a tremendous experience like a state champion football game?”
Hoey said that since the start of the football season in the summer, athletes have been preparing for #DestinationDeKalb.
“Every time they lace up their cleats and talk to their coach in the locker room, they’re preparing for postseason and the championship game,” he said. “Every time they win a game, it’s another step toward #DestinationDeKalb. Some of these teams have been working toward that goal all season long, and they will make it their reality in a week or so. All roads lead to DeKalb County for the championships.”
There will be eight games of football played total, with Classes 1A through 4A playing Friday, Nov. 26, and Classes 5A through 8A playing Saturday, Nov. 27.
“These teams had to play nine regular-season scheduled games and four playoff games before getting to the championships,” Hoey said. “Win or lose, they will always remember the state championship game at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb. We have pride in our hospitality and the welcoming environment that we create, and I think the fans very much appreciate it. We welcome them to DeKalb County.”
Volunteers still are needed for both days of the state championships. Volunteers must be at least 18 years of age and cannot be a current high school student. Volunteer positions include ticket scanners, ushers, parking personnel and event staff for at least one of the three available shifts on both days: 8 a.m. to noon, noon to 4 p.m. and 3 to 8 p.m. For more information about volunteering, visit www.ihsadestinationdekalb.com/volunteer/.
For more information about the state championships at Huskie Stadium, visit www.ihsadestinationdekalb.com.