by Gwen Allen
The next time you’re in the mood for a concert, play or sporting event, rather than going to Chicago, take a look to the west. Often overlooked, the Dekalb Convocation Center is not only home for over 200 sporting and entertainment events annually, but is only a short distance away. Though built to serve Northern Illinois University, it has served people from the entire region since it opened in August 2002, said the center’s director, John Gordon.
With an estimated 300,000 people visiting the center each year, the $36 million multipurpose facility has easily earned its keep by offering a wide variety of events that cater to a broad audience, he said.
“Since it opened it has always had revenues over expenses, and that’s a directive we continue to set every year,” Gordon said. “We have a marketing department that goes to a lot of concerts and trade shows; our name is out there, we just are working at keeping it out there.”
He said many annual events visitors have come to expect add to the center’s success.
“We have a lot of staple events, such as six job fairs (annually), an annual farm show, the high school playoffs, a dog show, and then of course the commencement ceremonies for the university,” Gordon said. “We also try to do between seven to 11 concerts a year, but with the economic times the way they are, a lot of facilities are down in concerts. We are just spoiled by Chicago because a lot of bands go through here; there is a lot of traffic.”
Though they attract their fair share of “B” events, he said the center has consistently hosted many “A” list concerts.
“We definitely have had our Carrie Underwoods; we sold out on John Mayer, Dave Chappelle and Rascal Flatts,” Gordon said. “We do well at selling out the larger events, but they generally (still) do well everywhere.”
With 10,000 seats in the center, it isn’t difficult to host the larger events. Rather, it’s more difficult knowing what large events will fill all or most of those seats. To do that, Gordon said there is an open line of communication among himself, the students and community as a whole.
“I try to keep a pulse on the students and the people in the community to see what they are interested in,” Gordon said. “Sometimes I get e-mails, other times they leave a message. I have even had people stop me at the grocery store or while I’m getting my hair cut to share their ideas.”
Though entering its slow season, the center still has a lot on its plate for future events.
“We are working on a pretty big country show that we hope to announce in April, and we are working on some rock shows for April too,” Gordon said. “There is a possibility for a Motown show in the future too.”
The center offers “All Access,” a free online membership that allows users to get new event notifications and discounts at www.niuconvo.com.
The Dekalb Convocation Center is located at 1525 Lincoln Highway, Dekalb. Call the ticket office at (815) 752-6800 or call Ticketmaster at (312) 559-1212. Athletic tickets are available through NIU Athletics at 1-800-332-HOWL or at the Convocation Center box office.
Photo: The DeKalb Convocation Center is a $36 million multipurpose facility that opened in August 2002. The center offers a wide variety of sports and entertainment events and attracts about 300,000 people each year. Courtesy Photo